State of the Beach/State Reports/MI/Beach Access

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Michigan Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access77
Water Quality66
Beach Erosion7-
Erosion Response-6
Beach Fill4-
Shoreline Structures4 3
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas26
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


Detailed information on Michigan's public access policies was not readily available.

The 2001 Assessment states that Michigan courts have long held that the public retains "rights of access" to navigable water. This forms the basis for waterfront public access development in the state. While Michigan does not have regulatory authority requiring mandatory public access to the Great Lakes, the Michigan Coastal Management Program (MCMP) encourages local governments to develop community recreation plans. New barrier-free access guidelines are currently under development.

The State Supreme Court heard the case of Glass v. Goeckel in March 2005. A major issue in this case is who owns or controls the portion of a private beach below the high water mark down to the water's edge. A previous appeals court ruling in this case said the state owns the land, but added that owners of waterfront property have exclusive use of it and can kick others out or require them to stay in the water. The state departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources filed a brief with the Supreme Court saying the state should own land below the high water mark while the public should be able to walk near the water's edge. The ruling in this case was handed down in July 2005, with the State Supreme Court siding with plaintiff Joan Glass that the public has the right to walk along Michigan's 3,200 miles of Great Lakes shoreline between the water's edge and the ordinary high water mark.

Detailed Information on Michigan's land acquisition policies was not readily available.

According to the 2001 Assessment, Michigan ranks fifth nationally in the number of acres of state-owned land available for recreation. This extensive public ownership provides tremendous recreational opportunities for the public. Michigan continues to acquire land and improve recreational facilities and programs in the coastal area.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, administered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), provides funding assistance for state and local outdoor recreation needs, including land acquisition. In addition, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, also administered by MDNR, provides financial assistance for land acquisition. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) requires local communities to have state approved recreation plans to be eligible for land acquisition grants. The 2001 Assessment also reports that a new source of funding, the Clean Michigan Initiative (CMI), has been made available to further benefit public access in Michigan. The CMI provided $50 million to local governments for the development and renovation of public recreation facilities.

A Property Owner's Guide to Wetland Protection in Michigan explains the shoreline management activities that may or may not require federal or state permits.

Site Inventory

30% of the shoreline in Michigan is publicly-owned, according to Pogue P. and Lee V., 1999, "Providing Public Access to the Shore: The Role of Coastal Zone Management Programs," Coastal Management 27:219-237

This same document identifies 1,494 public access sites in Michigan. This corresponds to about one public access site for every 2 miles of shoreline.

The 2001 Assessment states that there is no accurate data available to determine the number of public access sites or the number of miles/acres for scenic vistas or rights-of-way. It suggests that there is an abundance of amenities within Michigan's coastal area, including parks, scenic vistas, fishing access sites, lighthouses, recreation areas, and campgrounds. For example, there are approximately 45 coastal state parks, and numerous local and county parks.

According to the 2001 Assessment, 20% of the publicly owned land in Michigan is in either state or federal ownership.

There are three national parks along Michigan's coast: Isle Royale National Park and Biosphere Reserve, an island wilderness in Lake Superior; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, along Lake Superior; and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore including two islands in Northern Lake Michigan and extensive mainland shoreline. There are also three national forest units in Michigan that provide public recreational opportunities, including coastal access: Hiawatha National Forest, Ottawa National Forest in the Upper Peninsula, and Huron-Manistee National Forests in the Lower Peninsula. More information is available on the National Park Service Website and the Forest Service Website.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources maintains a Website that allows you to search for state parks by region, and summarizes some of the attributes and amenities of each of the parks.

State and national parks are clearly marked on state highway maps. More information on state public access sites is available in numerous public informational brochures (found at the 13 welcome centers across the state and at other locations).

Extensive information is also available from the Michigan Travel Bureau, by calling (800) 5432-YES or by searching the Website.

Many more county, township, and municipal access sites for boating, swimming, and beach use are available. Here's a listing of maps.

Books with information concerning access to the Lake Michigan Shoreline include:

Michigan's 2006 Coastal Assessment states:

The Michigan Coastal Management Program (MCMP) has supported the development of local and regional greenways initiatives for several regions of the state. The MCMP provided technical and financial assistance to inventory and map important ecological, historical, and recreational features; identify, map, and evaluate potential corridors; develop greenway maps, data bases using GIS; construct trails, and to incorporate regional greenways plans into local master plans and zoning ordinances. The MCMP has funded over sixteen greenway projects totaling approximately $490,000 in grant funds and $525,000 in matching funds.

The MCMP has also used Section 306 funding to assist in the development of regional heritage water trails on navigable waterways such as rivers, lakes, and canals that are designed and implemented to foster an interactive historical education experience. The MCMP recognizes these trails as another form of public access and is currently funding three heritage water trail projects totaling approximately $83,000 in grant funds and $105,000 in matching funds.

Public Access
City of St. Ignace; Huron Waterfront Boardwalk
Since 1982, the MCMP has been committed to providing public access to the city’s waterfront by funding several phases of a 5,000 plus linear feet shoreline walkway linking retail areas with points of interest, accented with landscaping, benches, historical displays and interpretive signage.

Northeast Michigan Council of Governments; Huron Greenways
Since 1999, the MCMP has funded four phase for the development of an organized system of land and water trails and routes linking the northeast coastal region. The study includes an inventory of potential greenway site, existing trail systems, ecological features, key recreational features and finally, the study makes a number of recommendations on how the greenway system might be put into place and what resources might be needed to maintain and improve the overall system.

Boardman River Trail
The MCMP has supported several projects within this evaluation period to complete engineering, design, and construction work for segments of a recreational trail system along the Boardman Lake and Boardman River. When complete, the trail system will create a network of “green” corridors linking residential and commercial areas, as well as enhancing public access to the lake.

Heritage Water Trails
Western Michigan University; Huron Coastal Heritage Water Trail
This is a pilot program in Huron County for the development of a planning model to design and implement coastal heritage water trails in Michigan. Metropolitan Affairs Coalition; Heritage Water Trail Implementation Plan Please refer to project description in the Itinerary for Monday, May 8, 2006. Noquemanon Trail Network; Heritage Water Trail Implementation Plan Part of a 500-mile trail that will span the circumference of Lake Superior. Project involves signage, installation of kiosks, creation of access point brochures, trail maps, and the design of a website for a heritage water trail along a segment of Lake Superior in Marquette County.

Historic Preservation

The MCMP has supported numerous historic preservation projects which enhance public access to important coastal resources. Projects such as Michigan Lighthouse Project, Tawas Point Lighthouse restoration and the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse Historic Grounds Restoration allow residents and visitors to Michigan’s coastal regions to learn about the region’s maritime heritage.

The USACE took oblique images of the entire Great Lakes shoreline (USA portion only) in 2012 by plane and has provided the images for free online. Once you’ve opened the webpage, select a Great Lake (or river) of interest to you by checking the appropriate box in the left-hand window pane. You may select or deselect a particular state as well. To view an image of interest to you, zoom into the area on the Google satellite map (in middle), and then select a spot along one of the colored lines that you’d like to view. Note that each colored line represents an individual pass of an airplane. Once you select a spot along the line, a window pane on the right will appear showing you the image of that exact spot on the map. Double clicking the image will enlarge it and offer metadata. If you scroll up and down and select different images in the right-hand window pane, your camera icon on the satellite map will move along with your picture change.

Beach Attendance Records

Information on beach attendance in Michigan was not readily available.

Economic Evaluation of Beaches

Information on the economic evaluation of beaches in Michigan was not readily available.

Direct leisure travel spending in Michigan statewide in 2004 was $12.6 billion, supporting 192,700 tourism-related jobs.

An analysis of jobs in the Great Lakes region by Michigan Sea Grant published in 2011 shows that the Lakes are key to the economy of the Great Lakes states in many ways. More than 1.5 million Great Lakes-related jobs generated $62 billion in wages, in 2009. For the complete analysis, see: Great Lakes Jobs Report (PDF).

NOAA's Office for Coastal Management (OCM) has written a discussion of the recreational value of beaches, in the context of beach fill projects. In 2009 OCM released Introduction to Economics for Coastal Managers, a basic introduction to economic ideas and methods that can be applied to coastal resource management. The economic concepts provided in this introduction are illustrated through several case studies. Other OCM/Digital Coast publications can be found here.

The following two websites provide information on the economic value of coasts and the ocean throughout the country.

The National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) provides a full range of the most current economic and socio-economic information available on changes and trends along the U.S. coast and in coastal waters. You can download data on jobs and GDP associated with specific types of coastal activities for each coastal state. You also can download data on commercial fishing and landings. The NOEP made public their fully updated Non-Market Valuation website in September 2008. The largest database in the world of studies documenting the environmental and recreational values of ocean resources, the website now includes 1) an updated methodologies section, 2) frequently asked questions, 3) examples of how Non-Market valuation influences public policy, and 4) an expanded table summarizing valuation estimates from across the United States. In 2014 NOEP released an updated State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2014, which points out that there is an imbalance between the economic importance of coasts and coastal oceans and the federal support for stewardship of these resources. According to the report, coastal states supply over 81 percent of American jobs and contribute $13 trillion to the economy, or 84 percent of GDP. More on this here. The National Ocean Economics Program previously released State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2009, which presents time-series data compiled over the past 10 years that track economic activities, demographics, natural resource production, non-market values, and federal expenditures in the U.S. coastal zone on land and water. The report states that coastal states account for more than 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The most recent report released by NOEP is the State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2016. The Center for the Blue Economy (CBE) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey now houses the National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP).

The website of Restore America's Estuaries has a report The Economic and Market Value of Coasts and Estuaries: What's At Stake?. According to the report, U.S. coasts and estuaries that have been protected and managed in a sustainable way are worth billions. Beaches, coastal communities, ports, and fragile bays are economic engines that drive and support large sectors of the national economy. The report focuses on aspects of coasts and estuaries that are most dependent on ecologically healthy conditions. The authors also examined a growing body of research that reveals the economic consequences of environmental change in coastal and estuary ecosystems.

A report A Review and Summary of Human Use Mapping in the Marine and Coastal Zone was published in December 2010. This report was prepared by ERG for NOAA's Coastal Services Center. The report evaluated different methods and approaches to measure human uses of the coastal and marine environment. The uses were divided into 1) military and industrial uses, 2) consumptive uses (e.g., fishing) and 3) non-consumptive activities (e.g., swimming, surfing, kayaking).

The economic value of beaches can increase or decrease due to a number of factors, including beach width; the presence or absence of amenities such as parking, restrooms or lifeguard services; the suitability of the beach for activities such as surfing or swimming; and the presence or absence of pollution and beach litter. In June 2014 NOAA published an infographic on the high cost of marine debris based on the report Assessing the Economic Benefits of Reductions in Marine Debris: A Pilot Study of Beach Recreation in Orange County, California, which was prepared by Industrial Economics, Inc. for NOAA's Marine Debris Division. It found that having debris on the beach and good water quality are the leading factors in deciding which beach residents visit. Reducing marine debris by even 25 percent at beaches in and near Orange County, California, could save residents approximately $32 million during the summer by not having to travel long distances to other beaches. Beach characteristics were collected for 31 popular Southern California public beaches from San Onofre Beach to Zuma Beach. Orange County residents were also surveyed on their recreation habits, including how many day trips they took to the beach from June - August 2013, where they went, how much it cost them, and which beach characteristics are important to them. The results provided in an estimate if how much Orange County residents would potentially benefit, including how often they visit beaches and how much they would save in travel costs, over a summer season by reducing marine debris at some or all of these 31 beaches. The study focused on Orange County because of the number and variety of beaches, their importance to permanent residents, ease of access, and likelihood that marine debris would be present. Researchers believe that, given the results, the study could be modified for assessing similar coastal communities in the United States.

For additional general discussion of the economic impacts of beaches, please see the article Economic Impact of Beaches.

Perception of Supply and Demand

According to the 2001 Assessment, Michigan is a national attraction for visitors who come annually to the Great Lakes. In 1993, Michigan ranked number one in the nation for registered boats, with 874,818. Thus access to the water is important. Michigan provides extensive public access opportunities. There are approximately 1,286 state-operated boat launch facilities in Michigan's coastal areas, and the state's goal is to ensure that boaters are never further than 15 shoreline miles from a safe harbor of refuge.

While there area many factors which contribute to the demand for public access, natural resources, environmental issues, economics, and competition from other states play a significant role in the future of Michigan's public access.

Population density affects demand and the ability to provide adequate access. It is estimated that the population will increase over 35% in nine northern Michigan counties by the year 2020. This will place even greater demands on public access. Land fragmentation will also become more important as large tracts of land are increasingly divided into smaller tracts and eventually support new development. This too will challenge the ability of state and local governments to provide adequate public access. Michigan has many coastal entities requesting funds necessary for public access development. Often the necessary funds are not available. This results in competition for financial assistance from governmental grant programs and foundations. Even Great Lakes water levels need to be taken into account. The impacts of low water levels on public access can be both positive and negative. Also, the topography of the coast makes it difficult to provide barrier-free access without adversely affecting the stability of dunes and bluffs. Finally, there are potential conflicts where public access sites are located adjacent to residential properties. These conflicts include traffic congestion, noise, litter, trespass, and vandalism.

Public access to the coast continues to be in great demand in Michigan, both for residents and visitors. Traditional public programs include land acquisition, facility development, planning and research, and public education. Many grant programs with diverse sources of funding have been established to meet public access demands.

Public access has received priority attention for many years in Michigan, and will continue to be an important issue in the future, especially as density and demands on the resources increase. MCMP feels that these needs are being met through existing funding and management programs.

Public Education Program

The 2001 Assessment notes that the MCMP continues to update its Website, including the development of multimedia mapping modules for direct access and viewing. Several booklets are available to the public detailing the six coastal authorities administered by the MCMP. Several MCMP have involved construction of interpretive displays to educate the public. A new Michigan's Coastal Resources brochure is being developed, as well as a semi-annual program newsletter Fresh Connections.

State of the Beach Report: Michigan
Michigan Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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