Community News |Dec 4, 2020|3 min read

Muskegon, MI – The Muskegon County Board of Commissioners’ application for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) Grant for acquisition of the Nugent Sand property in Norton Shores has been recommended for funding by the Trust Fund’s Board of Trustees at their meeting on December 2, 2020.

The $10 million grant request was ranked first out of 37 acquisition applications in the 2020 MNRTF Grant cycle, and the Trust Fund Board recommended $5 million be awarded in the 2020 cycle to kick off the first phase of the project. This $5 million award was by far the largest grant made to a local community in the state in the 2020 grant cycle.

Pending state legislative approval and the governor’s concurrence, the project’s first phase will include the purchase of the South Lake area, a wooded plot of approximately 214 acres with an inland lake and access to Lake Michigan shoreline.

The Muskegon County Board will apply for an application for the additional funding in the 2021 MNRTF grant cycle to complete Phase II of the project, the acquisition of the North Lake of the Nugent Sand property, which includes trails, another inland lake, and additional Lake Michigan beachfront.

The MNRTF Trustees agreed that the project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a public park that will provide public access to inland lakes and a significant amount of Lake Michigan shoreline. The success of this project is attributed to the hard work and partnership between the County of Muskegon, the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, and Nugent Sand land owner, Bob Chandonnet.

“First and foremost, we want to thank the MNRTF Board for their recommendation to fund the project,” said Susie Hughes, Chair of the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners. “The Trust Fund grant will set aside in perpetuity this magnificent property for the enjoyment of generations of local and state residents. “

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Following grant approval by the state legislature and governor, the property will open to the public 90 days after the property sale is final. It will then become a county recreational area with a 2.1-mile signed trail bordering the inland lake, as well as access to Lake Michigan beachfront.

“This project was the direct result of an opportunity presented to Muskegon County about a year ago, in which the owner of Nugent Sand, Bob Chandonnet, wanted to preserve the property as a recreational area for Muskegon County residents, the people of Michigan, and visitors to our area,” said Mark Eisenbarth, Muskegon County Administrator. “Because of the unique size and location of the property on Lake Michigan, the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners took action to pursue the acquisition of Nugent Sand.”

Chandonnet provided a generous match to the MNRTF grant that will allow the project to move forward, and has requested the property be named “Dune Harbor Park.”

The Land Conservancy of West Michigan has been working with the County and potential donors to develop a fund to be used to open the property to the public and provide match funding for future grants and fundraising efforts to sustain the park for future generations to enjoy. To date, private donors have committed approximately
$350,000 to the project.

The Muskegon County Parks Department has begun work on a preliminary opening plan for the recreational area. A master planning process will follow in upcoming months, with public input on the master plan required and expected.