A book of shared memories celebrating the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, a non-profit organization, has put together a book about the area – but with a twist: It was crowd-sourced! They asked locals, visitors and historians to submit their best photos showcasing the area, and the result? A beautiful mix of memories, history and flat-out fun, quirky facts about “The Most Beautiful Place in America.”
The book, Picture-Perfect Sleeping Bear, came out this past July and features 128 pages of color photos, nostalgic black and whites, and short stories. “We put out the call and received over 1,300 submissions,” said Kathy Cole, Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes member and one of the editors of the book.
Next, the group of volunteer editors had the task of narrowing down the best of the best. “The hard part was how do we organize it and what stories do we tell? We didn’t want just 500 sunsets or 500 dune shots, so our committee organized the book into three parts,” she said.
Part 1: Before the Park
“Many of these are pictures that have never been published or shared,” Kathy said. “For example, one story is about a centennial farm in the park, and the current homeowner actually gave me framed, family photos off his wall to scan!”
Kathy said the stories include one from Amy Ellison, who grew up working for her grandparents at the Dune Climb Store; and photos from the Benzie Historical Society in the 1950s of people camping and fishing on the Platte River – long before either were national attractions.
“What I love about this book is that it gives just a few paragraphs about each subject,” she said. “Just enough – they are great nuggets and conversation starters, perfect for a coffee table book or souvenir of the area.”
Part 2: Founding the National Lakeshore
“This section honors the people instrumental in creating the park and the controversy of acquiring private land,” Kathy said. Some examples she noted, include photos from the park dedication ceremony at the Dune Climb in 1977 and the opening of the Maritime Museum in 1984. The conversion from private to public land is told in photos, with both the good and hard times represented.
Part 3: The National Lakeshore and its contributions
“The last part has the most photos,” Kathy said. “You can see the changes over time. Like what it was like to go to the beach in the early days – with grandpa in his suit after church! To now - you see changes in everything from how we dress and vacation, to how we climb the dunes.”
Kathy noted one family submitted a series of photos of the same Cottonwood tree, year after year. “The pictures show the tree near the parking lot of the dune climb that the kids used to climb – until eventually it was totally buried in sand!” she said.
This part of the book also covers preservation of the park, including the protection of piping plovers, and management of invasives like Baby’s Breath and Purple Loostrife. “The amazing thing is that the Sleeping Bear Dunes is a wilderness area, mostly untouched, yet 1.7 million people came to enjoy it last year – a record high!”
A handful of contributors share their story
The Empire Heritage Museum provided several historical photos for the collaboration. Dave Taghon, who runs the museum, noted one of his favorite pictures to share in the book was of a photo from a dune car ride he took with his uncle and brother in 1943.
With a laugh, he noted that he’s lived all the history here for the last 80-plus years! “I used to own a convenience store and gas station here for 36 years and things were a lot different before the park!” he said. “You used to be able to buy things for your snowmobiles and houses and everything for living right here – but that all changed – it’s for the tourists now. But, I love that too! The book lets people know what it was about then and now.”
Olivia Kleshinski, 14, was able to share photos from recent times at the park, the opposite end of the spectrum! She is a volunteer for the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes who lives in Maumee, OH, and vacations here every year with her family. “Picture Perfect Sleeping Bear captures the fondest memories shared by visitors and locals alike,” she said. “This album of shared memories tells the story of what makes Sleeping Bear Dunes a small part of everyone!”
Olivia’s photo shows their family floating on the Platte, an annual tradition.
Cyndie Hartmann, who has a home in Glen Arbor and has been coming to the area since she was 2 years old – and she and her husband just celebrated 50 years together – is also a member of Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. “I was thrilled that they chose three of our photos to use,” she said. “The book is stunning and represents the area beautifully.”
And, perhaps, Cyndie says it best with this:
“All of our family and friends say the following as soon as they arrive in Glen Arbor, ‘This is my happy place,’ and it definitely is!”
Where to find the book
“We printed 2,200 books, and we’ve sold about 40% of our inventory since July,” Kathy said.
You can find the book at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, at bookstores in Glen Arbor, Frankfort, Suttons Bay, Traverse City, and more, as well as online at https://friendsofsleepingbear.org