DNR, ‘duners’ reach a resolution; Silver Lake State Park opens April 1

March 25, 2015

silver lake dunesBy Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

GOLDEN TWP. — It’s been a long process, but it looks like the DNR and the Silver Lake “duners” have reached a resolution to deal with the long lines to enter the sand dunes — at least for the upcoming season.

The agreement comes just in time for the annual opening of the Silver Lake Sand Dunes next Wednesday, April 1.

“The Department of Natural Resources has collaborated with a Silver Lake Off-Road Vehicle Area (SLORVA) core task group since January to develop an improved access plan for the ORV area,” states a DNR press release issued

DNR Chief of Parks and Recreation Ronald Olson facilitates Monday night's workshop, which was aimed at gaining feedback toward improving the ORV area at Silver Lake State Park.

DNR Chief of Parks and Recreation Ronald Olson facilitated the workshop last January at the Golden Township Hall that drew approximately 250 dune users, law enforcement personnel and Silver Lake area business owners.

Wednesday, March 25.

“We have a very passionate community of ORV riders,” states DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson. “We are glad to have their participation and input as we work to improve Silver Lake State Park ORV Area and provide high-quality recreation experiences that our visitors love and expect.”

Four task force members, Steve Guppy, Dave Martel, Chad Coker and Mike Cook recently met with the DNR and the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office to iron out the details. A key point to their proposal is that the parking lot voucher system will remain the same as it was for the 2014 season.

“For success, we need the ‘duners’ to keep in mind that no dune-ready vouchers means we need all of the assistance with expediting vehicles through as quickly as possible,” Guppy stated on the Silver Lake Facebook page. “We want to keep traffic moving so there is not a stationary line on county roadways.

“As a group of volunteers, we asked ourselves, representatives of the DNR, OCSO, Oceana County Road Commission and Golden Township representatives how we can safely, efficiently and effectively move in thousands of ‘duners’ without using vouchers and reservations, while putting the least amount of stress on the property owners and ‘non-duner’ tourists,” Guppy stated.

dune meeting - 1

Hundreds of dune enthusiasts, Silver Lake business owners, DNR officials and law enforcement personnel packed the gym of the former Golden Elementary School, which is now Golden Township Hall, last January to address dune access at Silver Lake State Park.

“Safety was our priority and it was always brought back to the safety of all of those involved or who could be impacted by this change,” said Guppy. “We will note that we appreciate all of those who have assisted the citizens to have a part in the important change. It is equally important that everyone using these dunes this year assist us with this transition and keep in mind this is a temporary solution until we get additional parking, entrances, etc.”

“There will no longer be a voucher system for dune-ready access; however, the voucher process will be used consistent with the past process for use of the parking lots for trailered ORV units,” the DNR press release states.

“This season will be treated as a pilot program. Particularly on busy holiday weekends, volunteers will assist in implementing the new procedures. The process will be evaluated throughout the summer to ensure that it functions well, maximizes the recreational experience and creates minimal impact to the community.

“The process began last fall to address the long waiting lines to access the ORV area, which have caused an inconvenience for the users of the area and the local community,” the press release states.

“After the DNR’s initial ORV area plan was outlined and considered last fall, the DNR received additional public comment, resulting in a more robust process to improve the plan.

“More than 248 users participated in the first meeting in January. Three additional planning sessions followed, concluding with a final meeting involving a 16-member core task group comprised of volunteers. Several improvement strategies were identified. The objective is to speed up access to the ORV area by ensuring users are ‘dune-ready’ prior to arriving at the entrance to the dunes.”

Strategies include:

  • Online instruction and educational videos.
  • Better educational and flow signage.
  • Ability to purchase ORV and trail permits and recreation passports off-site.
  • More efficient check-in process and dune access.
  • Assessing options to expand parking.
  • Realignment of the site traffic flow.
  • Establishing a welcome center for dune information.

“Local businesses, sheriff’s department, emergency management, township and road commission representatives joined Silver Lake State Park and other DNR Parks and Recreation staff to provide input in this dynamic planning process,” the DNR states.

ORV riders planning to visit Silver Lake are urged to review the updated system at Silver Lake State Park.