Freshwater Dune Summit to celebrate globally rare Great Lakes coastal sand dunes

First-time event brings expert speakers and outdoor adventurers to Muskegon May 7-8

Outdoor adventurers, sand dune advocates, academic researchers and tourism professionals will gather in Muskegon May 7-8 to celebrate the region's globally rare freshwater dunes and the unique quality of life they provide for Great Lakes coastal communities.

The first Freshwater Dune Summit, held at the Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor, will combine insights from expert speakers with opportunities for exploring the Lake Michigan shoreline and enjoying the local food and beer scene.

The event is being organized by the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), Heart of the Lakes and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC). Registration for the event is $35. Special room rates are available at the Holiday Inn.

"Michigan's coastal sand dunes are truly a world-class natural asset, as anyone can testify who has looked out across the blue waters of our inland seas from the top of Sleeping Bear or Grand Sable," said Brad Garmon, director of conservation and emerging issues for MEC. "We want this summit to begin a discussion Michigan needs to have about the value of these special places and how best to protect and enjoy them."

The event begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 7 with a choice of bike ride, trail run or kayak float on the Muskegon River, followed by dinner at Rebel Pies and a screening of outdoor films at Unruly Brewing.

The program for Monday, May 8 offers a field trip and dune hike, or sharing and discussion sessions on a range of topics, including the economic and community benefits of outdoor recreation; stories from the region's three Dunes National Lakeshores; the evolution of dune management science; and dune and beach stewardship efforts.

"Great Lakes freshwater sand dunes offer communities up and down the coast a special sense of place and a built-in brand identity," said Bill Wood, executive director of WMEAC. "These unique ecological features drive tourism and recreation, and have landed several small towns on the 'greatest places' lists of national magazines and TV shows. The challenge is figuring out how to accommodate their popularity and to better promote these assets while also protecting the natural resources that make them so special."

The summit also will include the unveiling of a new social and economic value survey for the dunes developed by Michigan State University researchers. Additionally, Heart of the Lakes -- which serves as the collective voice for Michigan's land conservancies -- will present its annual Conservation Heroes awards.

"We want people from all walks of life to participate in this new online dune survey," said Jonathan Jarosz, executive director of Heart of the Lakes. "It will offer, for the first time, real and measurable data on how important these dunes are, how and where people recreate in the dunes and the economic and quality-of-life benefits to the communities where they are located. We think that's critical -- and missing -- information that should drive management decisions and investments going forward."

The general public is encouraged to attend the summit and join the conversation with #howyoudune, #dunegood and #dunescience. Registration, lodging information and a full agenda are available at

Financial assistance for the summit is provided in part by the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program, Office of the Great Lakes, Department of Environmental Quality; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Jonathan Jarosz, Heart of the Lakes, 989-292-3582
Andy McGlashen, Michigan Environmental Council, (517) 420-1908
Elaine Sterrett Isely,West Michigan Environmental Action Council, 616-451-3051

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