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A Beloved Natural Place

Heather Rigney Shumaker ’91’s newest book is a love letter to the Arcadia Dunes off Lake Michigan’s eastern coast, and a homage to the lives that intertwined to save it.

Saving Arcadia: A Story of Conservation and Community in the Great Lakes (Wayne State University Press) tells how residents preserved this 3,600-acre tract at the turn of this century.

The Arcadia area had primarily been farmland until 1970, when a large swath of contiguous land was bought out by a utility. Over the years, the local residents quietly explored the dunes, forests, and abandoned farms until rumors of development necessitated action.

Shumaker weaves together the many voices that led to the conservancy acquiring the land to preserve it: farmers, inn owners, local politicians, and other residents of Michigan’s Benzie and Manistee counties, as well as the conservancy staffers and fundraising campaign partners united in their conviction.

“Nearly all of us cradled memories of a beloved place within us,” she writes. “When something strikes that chord, we respond.”

The history of the Arcadia Dunes community demonstrates just how powerful that response can be.