Leelanau Almanac for Week of October 15 – 21

Photo: Manitou and Momma Bear by jimflix

Our stories for the week featured the Leelanau Vintners Toast the Season Wine Trail Tour and ticket giveaway. And the debut of a new Michigan grown cherry juice, Very Cherre. Also Bata is asking everyone to participate in their online 2010 Strategy Survey. And although we aren’t seeing the fall color that we are used to, thankfully Pentax K1000 Gal has a great shot from a couple years ago of Mill Creek in Fall, that we featured on Photo Friday.

Week’s Weather

(Oct 22) Though there’s still lots of green, color is getting toward peak and this weekend may well be the best we get. We’re seeing lots of yellows and reds, and more and more browns. The wind is starting to pull down the leaves, so although it will probably continue for at least a week, we’re going to peg this weekend as peak color.

Oct 20:  Partly cloudy & 54 (54/48)
Oct 19: Partly sunny & 59 (62/44)
Oct 18: Partly cloudy & 51 (51/26)
Oct 17: Partly cloudy & 45 (45/28)
Oct 16: Cloudy & 44 (44/29)
Oct 15: Partly cloudy & 45 (45/34)

Post your comments about the week’s news, observations of the weather or the natural world or events below!

You’ll also want to check out the Leelanau Calendar and the latest news and features from Leelanau, Traverse City and the surrounding area in our blog! Here’s the October 2008 archive, and Leelanau Almanac for the Week of October 8 – 14.

3 replies
  1. Tom Van Zoeren
    Tom Van Zoeren says:


    Dear Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore,

    I hope you got a chance to enjoy some of the Ken Burns series, “Our National Parks: America’s Best Idea” on television recently. It was fun seeing the Parks themselves—and also hearing the stories of how Americans have fiercely defended them over the years. You may be interested to know that our own National Park, Sleeping Bear Dunes, is presently considering how, or whether, to effectively protect our Park lands from sewage spray from The Homestead Resort.

    For those who are interested, a short history, summarizing how we got here, follows below. I expect you’ll find it a rather amazing tale.

    “Cliff Notes” Version: If you’d rather just get the gist of it, Superintendent Dusty Shultz needs to know if you feel that it should be a priority to draw a firm line to protect against sewage spray that illegally drifts into the Park. The first step would be to devise a good, scientific system to accurately monitor for it. That will take staff time and resources that might otherwise be used for other purposes, and it may offend certain interests—so if the public doesn’t make it a priority, it may not happen. Now is the time when the direction on this will be determined. You can contact Dusty at slbe_superintendent@nps.gov or 231/326-5134.


    • How it began: At the time of the beginning of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the vacant acreage next to The Homestead was owned by the same family who essentially owned The Homestead. Like all other undeveloped land within the Park boundaries, this land was subject to purchase by the Park Service. However, the owners sold an easement to The Homestead (basically themselves) for $1, allowing for a seepage area on 13 acres of the property—so when the government bought the property (for $1.3 million) it came encumbered with that easement—thereby skirting the law as it applied to everyone else, and granting The Homestead continued use of the property.

    • What the easement said: The Homestead may have a “seepage area” for its sewage system within the easement area. At that time, this was, of course, understood to mean an underground system of drain pipes. The above-ground land was to be left as natural as possible.

    • What the easement did not say: It did not say that the Park is obligated to provide for all of The Homestead’s sewage needs—just to provide a place for a seepage area on those 13 acres.

    • The early years: For some years, the land was used as intended—Seepage system below ground; trails through the woods and meadows above ground. Because much of the area was not needed for seepage, that area remained covered with forest.

    • Problems: Over the years, The Homestead grew, and outgrew its sewage system. Sewage oozed from surrounding ground; there were numerous state permit violations; the groundwater became polluted; citizens complained; lawsuits were filed. Everyone was desperate to resolve the situation.

    • Hello, sewage: In 1992 The Homestead announced a plan to clear-cut the remaining forest and utilize the entire area. Anxious to resolve the many problems, but also wanting to preserve the remaining forest, the Park Superintendent unfortunately agreed to a plan to allow for the partially-treated sewage to be irrigated above ground, so the trees could remain.

    • More Problems: The Park Service and the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) documented many problems during following years: the system was not maintained; sewage was sprayed beyond the boundaries of the easement area; the ground water was again polluted.

    • Goodbye, trees: In 2005 The Homestead announced that it had again exceeded its sewage system capacity, and now needed to cut the remaining forest, replace it with a mix of alien grasses and alfalfa, and spray their sewage over the whole area.
    Park Management now questioned the legality of above-ground irrigation under the easement for a “seepage area”, but was advised by its solicitor (legal advisor) that because “the camel already has its nose in the tent” (meaning the previous superintendent had allowed for above-ground irrigation), it could no longer be prevented.
    Anxious to prevent drifting of sewage spray into the Park, the Park Service, various environmental organizations, and private citizens requested The Homestead to explore options such as root-zone seepage, drip irrigation, low-profile low-pressure sprinklers, and better pretreatment. The Homestead rejected these options and prepared to install a high-pressure spray system.

    • Buffers?: It is universally accepted in the field that, when using high-pressure sprayers, aerosol drift is inevitable. Additionally, winds can blow even the non-aerosolized portion of the spray over significant distances. For that reason, a buffer zone of at least 100’ from all property lines is required by state law. The Park Service requested the Homestead to abide by this safety measure. The Homestead instead made the legal case that easement boundaries are not technically “property lines”. They declined to include the buffers.

    • Here it is: In 2006 the forest was clear-cut and a high-pressure spray system was installed to spray sewage up to within a few feet of the easement boundaries. (In the process, the bull-dozers illegally denuded hundreds of feet of Park land, created wash-outs and silt deposits, etc.)

    • But– Although the solicitor had said that above-ground irrigation could not be prevented per se, he emphasized that any drifting, including aerosol drift, of effluent beyond the easement boundaries would be clearly illegal. This is also stipulated in the state permit for the system.

    • Our Sewage: The Homestead’s filtration/disinfection system is considered to be only a “partial” treatment process; the effluent can contain viable pathogens. Studies have shown that these pathogens are carried for considerable distances (hundreds of feet in some cases) in aerosol spray. Humans and animals exposed to this aerosol drift are subject to infection (not to mention those who eat the berries and mushrooms in the area). (Park Service safety guidelines require the Rangers to wear respirators and Tyvek coveralls when approaching the area for observation.)
    Further, there have been past instances of failure of The Homestead’s disinfection system. One DEQ report stated, “Monitoring reports show that fecal coliform counts have been reported in excess of 6,000 counts per hundred ml [600 times the allowable limit]…bacteria in the spray on land to which the public has access is a public health hazard.”

    • To Sum Things Up:
    o The easement began as a questionable way to allow for underground sewage disposal on13 acres in the Park. The land above was to be left as natural as possible. It was still used for trails, etc..
    o Above-ground irrigation was later permitted in order to save the remaining forest. (The trails were then abandoned.)
    o 12 years later, the forest was razed and replaced with sewage-sprayed grasses and alfalfa. The Homestead effectively assumed all use of the property; the public now cannot enter the property we purchased.
    o By not providing the buffers needed for sewage spray, The Homestead has also effectively taken control of many additional acres surrounding the easement area (partly in or around the Port Oneida Historic District). The Park has installed red & white warning signs advising the public against approaching within 25’ of the area. They should include at least 75’ more.

    • What Now? Before installing this system, The Homestead was advised by the Park Service and numerous environmental organizations & individuals that, although we may not be able to say what type of system they can build, we can and will ensure that the law and the public’s rights are upheld: none of their sewage, including aerosolized spray, is allowed in our Park. Whether they can somehow achieve this with their present spray system, or whether the system needs to be modified, or whether it needs to be replaced—that is up to them. What we and the Park Service can do is take a stand to ensure that, one way or another, our surrounding Park is not violated.
    Thus far, only rough, hit-or-miss monitoring has been done. If you feel that accurate, scientific monitoring is needed as a first step to ensure that Sleeping Bear is again free of The Homestead’s sewage, now is the time to let it be known.

    Thanks for your interest.

    Tom Van Zoeren

  2. David Harris
    David Harris says:


    After reading your forum piece on the Leelanau Enterprise of October 29, 2009, I sent the message below to the National Lakeshore superintendent. Thank you for your vigilance.

    Superintendent Schultz,

    As a Leelanau County resident who enjoys both the National Lakeshore and The Homestead Resort, I am concerned about the sewage spray problem emanating from the resort. I urge you to ensure that the law is enforced so that sewage spray from The Homestead is not allowed to drift onto National Lakeshore property. Of course, any costs to ensure safe treatment of resort waste should be born by The Homestead.


    David Harris
    Glen Arbor

  3. Charles Gadek
    Charles Gadek says:

    Again, we see “Profit Above All Else” taking away the very things that bring tourists and nature lovers to the Leelanau Peninsula…when will enough be enough??? Or are the powers that be interested in only one thing…$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$….Disgusting!

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