timberland size chart Christmas Cove parking lot crumbles as high water
TRAVERSE CITY You can’t fight Mother Nature.
That’s the conclusion Leelanau Township officials have come to regarding Christmas Cove beach, which has taken a beating from high waves and high winds over the last several years.
A sandy bluff leading up to a parking lot at the township owned Lake Michigan beach has been battered to the point where the edge of the lot has begun to crumble, leaving chunks of asphalt along the beach.
With all measures to prevent erosion of the bluff proving futile, the township will now look at moving the parking lot back.
The western edge of the parking lot the edge that is crumbling will lose 10 to 15 feet that will be added on to the eastern edge of the lot.
“That will give us a little more dune to work with,” said Doug Scripps, Leelanau Township supervisor.
Scripps said he does not yet know how much it will cost to move the parking lot, but the township will likely get estimated costs for the project in January and add it to the 2018 19 budget.
In the meantime a guardrail along the edge of the parking lot that had come loose and was in danger of falling onto the beach has been removed. A gate will be also be installed on Christmas Cove Road, which ends at the parking lot, to keep cars off the lot until it can be reconfigured. For now the road is blockaded off.
Leelanau Township resident Paul Rebori sits on the township Parks and Recreation Committee. Rebori said he does not know what the long term solution is for Christmas Cove, that moving the parking lot will likely be very expensive.
“I don’t know where we’re going to go,” Rebori said. “The biggest thing right now is money.”
Christmas Cove beach, located near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, has long been a favorite among both area residents and visitors.
The purchase of a 3/4 acre lot several years ago expanded the beach to about 400 feet. The township used a $375,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to partially pay for the lot, which came with a $570,000 price tag.
A snow fence was put up about two years ago to keep people from walking down the bluff, which is how they have always gotten to the beach. A set of stairs was built and signs were put up warning people of the unstable bluff.
Over the years solutions to the erosion have included piling riprap on eroded areas, which didn’t work, and building a seawall, an idea that was rejected when 168 residents signed a petition objecting to the measure. Most recently, an idea to anchor planks along the bank a temporary stopgap was abandoned after high winds in October further deteriorated the bluff, causing the parking lot to begin giving way.
Township resident Tom Shaver has been visiting Christmas Cove beach since 1979, when his children were toddlers. Those children are now adults and have children of their own who spend long summer days on the pristine beach.
“We have lots of memories,” said Shaver, who lives about a quarter mile from Christmas Cove. “We kind of have a generational attachment.”
Shaver was one of the people who signed the petition in 2015 protesting construction of the 270 foot steel seawall. Shaver and others had done their research, which said that over time wave action would scour sand from the base of the wall to create a water filled basin. There would eventually be no beach, they said, only waves crashing against the seawall.
Shaver and others knew losing the parking lot would likely be the cost of saving the beach. They were OK with that.
“We knew if the trend continued it would start taking the parking lot,” Shaver said.
High Lake Michigan water levels have plagued area beaches for several years. As of November, the lake was at 580.2 feet, or 19 inches above the long term monthly average.
When the water is calm, Shaver said, there is about 20 feet of sand at Christmas Cove beach. When the winds are high the waves kick up and there is no beach at all, he said.
“That’s slowly but surely been pulling the sand out and leveling the beach off,” Shaver said. “The beach is so dynamic that it’s changing all the time.”
The decision not to “harden” the beach with a seawall was a good one, he said. Given time the Lake Michigan water level will go back down, something he hopes will solve the issue.