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Michigan DNR moves historic building away from eroding Lake Michigan shoreline

The Michigan DNR relocated a historic shelter building to keep it safe from eroding shoreline on Lake Michigan.

The DNR said after months of planning, Orchard Beach State Park’s historic shelter building now sits a safe 230 feet back from the eroding Lake Michigan shoreline.

The necessary, winding, 1,200-foot journey through this popular park in Manistee, Michigan took 23 hours over three days, from Thursday, Dec. 10, to Saturday, Dec. 12.

For more than 70 years, the building sat perched high atop a bluff overlooking the Great Lake. However, high water and wave action have made the bluff unstable, requiring that the 850-ton building be relocated within the park to preserve its story, protect public safety and keep the building open for future recreation.

“The DNR proudly preserves and protects both natural and cultural assets,” said Ron Olson, chief of the Parks and Recreation Division within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Investing in this important place is an investment in the story of Michigan and preserves the memories of those who have enjoyed this iconic destination.”

Efforts to stabilize the bluff to protect the building have been in development since 2017. However, ongoing erosion at the toe of the bluff, compounded by rising water levels, and the sloughing of the high, steep slope put the future use and existence of the building at risk.

“I’m proud and excited that this community and the state joined together to save this historic building,” said Doug Barry, unit manager for Orchard Beach State Park. “So many families have held events here over the years because of the unique charm of this park shelter. Now its legacy can continue for many generations into the future.”

The building now will serve as the centerpiece for the 200-acre park’s revitalized day-use area, offering improved accessibility for shelter visitors and, eventually, a new playground.

High water has created the need to stabilize shorelines and historic structures around Michigan, including upcoming work at nearby Big and Little Sable lighthouses. As waters recede statewide, the DNR likely will uncover other necessary infrastructure repairs in public parks, trails and waterways.

Orchard Beach State Park's Historic Shelter Building Move

Orchard Beach State Park’s Historic Shelter Building Move (Joel Marotti/)


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