Eagle Harbor Township

Coastal Recreation Area and Wildlife Refuge

Report of the Planning Committee

January, 13, 2002


(Click map to enlarge.)Eagle Harbor Township has acquired or is in the process of acquiring approximately 939 acres of coastal land situated between Lake Eliza on the east and Great Sand Bay on the west for recreation, wetland and aquifer protection, and conservation of habitats for indigenous and migratory wildlife. Approximately $850,000 in public funds will be invested in these acquisitions; nearly $740,000 or 87% represented by federal, state and private grants secured by the Township Board. Almost all of the remaining funds were invested by the township’s water users to assist in the protection of the aquifer supplying water to the township’s water system.

These acquisitions are a major accomplishment for this community and will preserve these unique natural resources for recreation and the conservation for future generations of township residents and visitors

Contiguous to these lands are approximately 100 acres of lands owned by the Michigan Nature Association (89 acres) and the State of Michigan (11 acres). All have been acquired for purposes consistent with the township’s acquisition objectives. Charles Eshbach, regional site representative for the MNA, has assisted the committee in the planning process and agreed to have their properties included within the scope of the planning study. In addition, a private landowner, William and John Clark, who own approximately 80 acres contiguous to the township’s holdings, have cooperated closely with the committee, and at present are utilizing their property for purposes consistent with those of the township. The total planning study area, represented by the Township, MNA, State and private cooperating property owners is thus about 1,120 acres.


The study area consists of the largest single dune-marsh complex in Keweenaw County. It includes well-defined sand channels and sandy defiles, with vegetation of Red and White Pine, mixed with Red Oak and boreal forest. There are small, shallow lakes surrounded by dunes, with diverse plant communities. The larger of these water bodies are Long Lake and Eliza Lake. Eliza Lake is actually an impoundment of Eliza Creek.

Historic road grades are present. These grades are related to logging and the copper mining operations at Copper Falls. Many of these historic grades are presently used for recreational hiking and cross-country skiing.

The dunes and marshes lie at the base of the Keweenaw escarpment where prehistoric copper miners are known to have mined native copper.



Eagle Harbor Township’s Board began planning for the future use of the property by appointing a group of citizens to guide the process. The committee’s responsibility is to advise the Eagle Harbor Board and Supervisor on all matters related to the planning, development, operation and maintenance of the Eagle Harbor Township Coastal Recreation Area and Wildlife Refuge.

As noted above, adjoining property owners have been included in the planning process. This communication was and will continue to be important to ensure that future development plans for the Recreation Area and Wildlife Refuge are compatible with those of the owners of these properties.

Eagle Harbor Township appropriated funds for beginning the planning process. U.P. Engineers & Architects was retained to provide professional planning assistance to the committee and the township for the project. The planning process included the following work:

Base Mapping

A base map was prepared for the project area. The base map was prepared using USGS mapping resources. The base map allows information to be displayed as a large scale map for presentations, or as small scale maps, for trail maps, grant applications, etc. The base maps allow information to be plotted as overlay maps, as needed to effectively communicate information.


Land ownership, property boundaries, existing land use, soils, existing trail systems, water features, and natural features were identified and mapped.

A major task of the inventory was to map the existing ski and walking trail system using GPS tracking. This GPS data was then plotted on the base map. The trail map provided the township with details of where the trail is actually located on the site, and whether additional easements are required where the trail runs on adjoining properties.

Conceptual Plan

A conceptual plan was prepared for the project area. The Concept Plan includes the base map, inventory, and identifies development options. The concept plan is further described in this report.

Phase 2 of the Master Plan is proposed for funding through the Michigan Coastal Management Grant. Phase 2 will include more detailed planning work to guide design of facilities, including constructions concepts and details for interpretive signage, trails, boardwalks, fishing piers, information kiosks, or other facilities, a development/action and management plan to include cost estimates and a project schedule.



In March of 2001, the planning committee met and discussed the acquisition and future use of the property. Possible uses were identified and are listed below:

Wellhead protection
Plant & animal refuge
Berry Picking
Boating and canoeing
Snow shoeing
Day Camping
Cross country skiing
Mountain biking (on designated trails)
Nature interpretive trails
Physical fitness trail
Archaeology preservation
All terrain vehicles (on designated trails)
Snowmobiling (on DNR trail)
Vehicle parking (outside WPA)

Based upon these guiding parameters, plan options were conceptualized and mapped. The following narrative describes the concept plan.

Wellhead Protection: One of the primary purposes for acquisition of the property is to safeguard and protect Eagle Harbor Township’s public water supply. The water source is an aquifer in a very deep bed of gravel south and west of the residential community of Eagle Harbor. Due to soil conditions, this water source is very susceptible to contamination.

Low impact recreational use as proposed, including vault-type, pump-out toilets, will not threaten the water source, and are believed consistent with the Wellhead Protection Plan. Vehicle parking will need to be located outside the aquifer boundary.

Ski and Hiking Trail: The existing ski trail network will be maintained through the property.

Eliza Lake Township Park: A day use recreation area is proposed along the west shore of Lake Eliza. This park may include the following improvements:

Picnic Area: A picnic area and gathering place is proposed, including a small picnic pavilion, compacted gravel walkways, and vault-type, pump-out toilets. The picnic site will be linked to the fishing pier and boat launch with a boardwalk and walkway along the shore of Lake Eliza.

Boat Launch: The existing boat launch on Lake Eliza will be rehabilitated for small boats, canoes and kayaks.

Fishing Pier: A fishing pier on Lake Eliza is proposed adjacent to the boat launch. Targeted for use by children and others without boats, the fishing pier will enable anglers to fish for trout, bass, perch and panfish that are found in Lake Eliza.

Boardwalk and Waterfront Trail: From the dam on Lake Eliza, a walkway consisting of trail and boardwalk will be developed. This will link the boat launch and fishing pier with the picnic area located to the south. Boardwalks will be used over wetlands.

Parking: A small amount of vehicle parking will be created in an area along the north side of Lake Eliza, outside the boundary of the Wellhead Protection Area boundary. . The parking areas will not be paved and designed to minimize tree cutting.

Scenic Overlooks: Along the hiking trail, several locations have been identified for scenic overlooks. These places take advantage of topography to provide outstanding views of the area.

Long Lake Rustic Picnic Area: A small area is proposed for picnics adjacent to Long Lake. Access to this site will be by hiking or skiing.

Interpretive Signage: Unique geological features, natural habitats, scenic overlooks and historical information will be identified through a system of interpretive display boards located throughout the property.

Wayfinding System: A uniform signage system will provide maps, directional arrows and location information to trail users.

Multi-seasonal Design: All facilities and improvements will be designed for use in the winter as well as the warm seasons.


The committee recommends that the township consider several near term actions to assist in the implementation of the planning study concept plan.

Additional Land Acquisitions and/or Trail Access Easements: The committee has identified several locations where the existing hiking/ski trail is located outside the boundary of the township’s properties. These are shown on the concept plan and are located along the area’s northeasterly boundary and south of Long Lake. We recommend that the township enter into negotiations with the owners of these properties to secure ownership or trail easement rights.


Establish Site Boundaries. We believe it will be advantageous to both the township and adjacent landowners that the boundary of the recreation and wildlife refuge be visually established, at least on the site’s corners and at quarter section intervals along long boundaries.

Establish an Overall Site Signing Design Concept Plan and Install Site Entry Signing and Trail Way Signs. This signing is needed to satisfy required grantor identification, identify the purposes and allowed activities within the area, and assist hikers in finding their way safely around the property.




Submit 2003 Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Grant Application. The committee will assist the township in preparing these applications in time to meet the April 1 deadline. These applications might include matching funds for the suggested additional land and/or easement acquisitions, and funds to assist in the implementation of a site and trail-signing program.


Include Sufficient Funds in the Township’s Fiscal 2004 Budget to Allow the Completion of Phase 2 of the Master Planning, and Provide the Required Match for the Submitted 2003 CZM Grant Application.



The Eagle Harbor Township Recreation Area and Wildlife Refuge is a great example of how a community can find ways to secure the future of those amenities that make the community a special place. Although the primary goal of the initial acquisition was to protect the community water supply, this and the significant additional acquisitions, there will be many benefits of owning and managing this unique tract of land. The master plan provides a guide for wetland and habitat protection, and for low impact recreational development and that will enhance use of the property without destroying or significantly altering its character.


Respectfully submitted,

Eagle Harbor Township

Coastal Recreation Area and Wildlife Refuge

Planning Committee

Nancy Clark, Jon Davis, Jean Ellis, George Hite (chair), Dick Lantz, Bruce Olson, Mary Probst, and Jim Rooks

Editor Note:
This is a remarkable achievemnt for our little town - one that will cause future generations of township residents to think fondly of its founders as they enjoy the recreational opportunities and appreciate the protected wetlands and wildlife habitates the area provides. All of us here now should feel proud of our collective achievment, but as is always the case, we owe a special thanks to those who have provided the leadership and have been willing to make the hard public policy decisions and assume the associated risks. Our township board well deserves our accolades for their unfailing support of this endeavor, as do the many citizens who have assisted in the preparation and pursuit of funding grants, and in the necessary planning. Of special note is the hard work and superb leadership of our town supervisors. To use a baseball metaphor, our starting hall-of-fame pitcher Jim Boggio, who initiated a highly creative game plan and got this project through the tough early innings in spectacular mannar, has been followed by our future hall-of-fame closer, Doug Sherk, whose dogged tenacity, seemingly unending patience, and "can do" attitude is getting us successfully through the later innings. A winning team!

We also owe a hardy thanks to the funders of these land acquisitions. They are:
Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund ($270,000)
North American Wetlands Conservation Act ($85,000)
Lake Superior Basin Trust ($75,000)
Michigan Coastal Management Program ($240,000) - pending
Eagle Harbor Township Wellhead Protection Fund ($120,000)
Private donors ($60,000) - committed

And we certainly need to acknowledge the very significant cooperation and support of the land seller, International Paper's, Lake Superior Land Company, and their representative, Walt Arnold.