Besides being neighbors, what do Michigan’s Point Betsie Lighthouse near Frankfort and The Nature Conservancy’s Zetterberg Preserve at Point Betsie have in common? Well, they’re both getting historic restorations this summer.
The Point Betsie Lighthouse first began operations in 1858. Rich with maritime history, the lighthouse station has served as a former base for the U.S. Lighthouse Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Lifesaving Service, all of whom played a key role in saving the lives of distressed boaters along the treacherous Manitou Passage. Open for visitors during the summer months, the lighthouse is under the management of the non-profit, Friends of Point Betsie LIghthouse, and continues to offer a welcoming beacon for boaters.
The exterior of the Point Betsie Lighthouse has gone through a number of extensive restorations in the past. This year the time-worn interior is getting a face-lift. Restoration of the lighthouse is being funded through a combination of Federal grants and private matching funds.
The neighboring property, the Zetterberg Preserve at Point Betsie, under the watchful eye of The Nature Conservancy, is also getting a restoration face-lift, with an all-out effort to destroy invasive baby’s breath, Gypsophila paniculata, that has encroached in the region.
“One of the things we want to do to keep it healthy is get rid of invasive species,” said Melissa Soule, Marketing Manager at The Nature Conservancy, about the Point Betsie/Zetterberg Preserve region, “The dunes are healthier if they have the movement from wind and water.”
Soule pointed out that people are often surprised to learn that baby’s breath is a problem. Native species like Pitcher’s thistle, Cirsium pitcheri, which is considered federally endangered, and Lake Huron locust Trimerotropis huroniana, considered a State threatened species, have difficulty surviving among the deep and complex root system of baby’s breath.
Soule explained, “The Nature Conservancy has been a long-time partner with several conservation groups, including: The Land Conservancy of West Michigan, The Traverse Regional Land Conservancy and public groups like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. All of us have joined together to form the Michigan Dune Alliance.
I’ve never seen the collaboration in other groups like I have in conservation, where groups really do work together. We’re doing a good job of being science-based, measuring results and sharing information with others. It’s all coordinated in a thoughtful process.”
Referencing the removal of baby’s breath at the Zetterberg Preserve, Soule said, “The Nature Conservancy has taken the lead on this. The project has involved seasonal land stewards that we pay for the summer to do baby’s breath removal. We’ve had great success with AmeriCorps and Landmark volunteers.”
Costs associated with the removal of baby’s breath at the Zetterberg Preserve at Point Betsie are being funded through private donations from retail giant, Meijer Incorporated, headquartered in Grand Rapids.
Soule credits the Meijer organization for their long-term commitment to help eliminate invasive species, not only through their generous funding on the Zetterberg project, but Meijer’s involvement with several other projects as well, “A lot of what they do is behind-the-scenes, not because it’s glamorous, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
Soule also credits The Friends of the Point Betsie Lighthouse, who have generously provided The Nature Conservancy with space in the lighthouse to educate visitors about the importance of protecting our Michigan dunes, which are the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world.
“The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse are delighted to partner with The Conservancy,” said Jon Hawley, Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse spokesperson, “in interpreting the beauty and environmental sensitivity of the dunescape that surrounds the light station. Many visitors already ask us about the Zetterberg tract and are learning much from the wall displays. We look forward to further development of the Conservancy’s presentation.”
Volunteers are a critical element to the success of so many of The Nature Conservancy’s programs, Soule emphasized. Organizations wishing to volunteer in the removal of baby’s breath at the Zetterberg Preserve at Point Betsie are encouraged to contact: [email protected]
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