Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Island Life

Hello, Tim Greene here from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It's finally starting to feel like summer, with visitation and temperatures both increasing in Northern Michigan. This past week I was able to host Temple University ProRanger Program Director Dr. Vicki McGarvey, and I think she has an action-packed blog coming so I don't want to steal her thunder. Just a quick preview...
We had a great meeting about the ProRanger Program and SLBE.
Pictured (L-R): My Supervisor District Ranger Andy Blake, ProRanger Tim Greene,
Chief Ranger Phil Akers, and Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich.

Finn really enjoyed cherry pit spitting at
Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor.
Cherry pit spitting for distance? I've never heard of it either, yet it is another puzzle piece that makes this place so unique. In addition to cherry pit spitting, it just so happens that Sleeping Bear Dunes also has two islands as part of the National Lakeshore. North and South Manitou Islands are 12 and 16 miles west of the coast respectively, and I could go on and on about the beauty... yet it provided a great law enforcement experience as well.

South Manitou Island, with Ranger Station in the distance

From talking to other employees and even ProRangers of the past, I have heard that the crown jewels of this park are the islands. After a few days of experiencing them for myself, I couldn't agree more. However, it takes lots of hard work, unique skills, and organization to keep them operating smoothly. I had the opportunity to work with Ranger Jamie Westenfelder, who has worked at many parks including 9 years at the Grand Canyon. Being around someone with so much experience and passion for his job was a privilege as I tried to absorb as much knowledge as I could. 

Working on South Manitou Island is interesting because there are no Interpretive Rangers or Campground staff, so the LE Ranger is truly the do-it-all Ranger. We began with a boat tour around the perimeter of the island, and then welcomed lots of campers off the ferry. 
Our patrol boat, and transportation to and from the island.
Campground Registration
Pictured above, on Friday we checked camping registrations and Ranger Jamie gave a safety talk to help everyone have a safe visit. It is important to remember that being on an island may prevent quick responses to medical emergencies and resources, so it is important to always keep safety on the mind. Although the island appears to be paradise, safety never takes a vacation. The next day started early with going to the mainland to pick up other rangers, then continuing the rest of the day on the water.
Always on the lookout 
I was extremely lucky with weather conditions. It was sunny, warm, and the water was like glass. I have to remind myself that I am in Michigan and not the Caribbean with the clear blue water. We headed over to North Manitou Island to check on the Natural Resources staff who work on the island.
If you're looking for more of a wilderness remote area,
then North Manitou Island is your spot.
One of the biggest challenges that Sleeping Bear Dunes has is protecting the Piping Plover. They are an endangered bird species, and a third of the whole species calls SLBE home. All over the park, including on North Manitou, there are areas closed to the public because of the plover nests.

Closed Area on NMI
Pictured above are the signs that prevent visitors from going into the areas. During my time as a ProRanger Intern, I have learned that sometimes people choose to disobey signs, and this was the case this past week. Although we didn't get to contact the offenders, we were able to show our presence and educate a few visitors on the topic of Piping Plovers. During this visit to North, we received a SAR (search & rescue) call about an overturned kayak in Lake Michigan with the individual still in sight, yet unable to get back into the kayak in 56 degree water. Although this was not a good circumstance, it was great to see how our staff communicates with different agencies and works together to the quickest solution. This involved us hopping back on the boat and quickly getting to the kayak, helping the Leelanau County Sheriff's Marine Patrol rescue the individual and get everything to shore. It went flawlessly and it was a great feeling after my first successful rescue. After a long day on the water, I was able to explore the island a bit. 
SMI Lighthouse
South Manitou Island was popular in the 19th and 20th centuries as a harbor and fueling station. In 1901, the United States Life-Saving Service built a station on the island, which is now the Ranger Station. There are over 50 known shipwrecks around the island, some still very visible from the surface. Because of the shipwrecks, a 100-foot tall lighthouse was built in 1871 and is still standing. Tours are given daily to visitors thanks to park volunteers.
Shining during the night
During my last night on the island, we were able to go to the top of the lighthouse. I'm not a huge fan of heights, but I was too busy being in awe of the view to be scared.
Paradise... the view of the coast of SMI from the lighthouse.
My experience on the islands is one that I will never forget. It is interesting to note how the methods of law enforcement change according to the environment that you are in, and that only makes me more excited to see what happens next. Until next time, take care and thanks for reading. 


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog, Tim. Glad to see you are enjoying your internship.

  2. Well written!! This place looks amazing. So glad you're able to share your experiences at this amazing National Park with us. I'm glad I had the chance to read it.