Ludington State Park will temporarily close most of the park from Sept. 3, 2024 through July 1, 2025 while it undergoes a major infrastructure improvement project as one of 27 Michigan state parks receiving federal relief funding to tackle critical park needs. This historic investment, including ARPA relief funds as part of a “Building Michigan Together Plan” infrastructure package, will repair, replace and/or modernize core components of state parks and trails.
We caught up with Ludington State Park Manager Jim Gallie to ask him more about the project, related park closure and what it will mean to visitors. You can also find Frequently Asked Questions on the Ludington State Park Facebook page.
What work is expected to be done at Ludington State Park?
Ludington State Park will receive some important upgrades that will make the park easier to access and park as well as move throughout it. The project includes repaving the park's main entrance road and Hamlin Lake day-use area parking lot, repaving the entire Lake Michigan and warming shelter parking lots, adding another 75-100 parking spaces, plus widening the entrance of the beach parking lot to two full lanes, with walkways on each side for pedestrian safety, and enhancing traffic and pedestrian flow at the park entrance by adding dedicated left and right turn lanes to allow faster park entrance. The warming shelter area also will be upgraded with multiple lanes and a crosswalk to connect the bike paths with the beach. In addition, we will be rebuilding the Skyline Trail, adding new supports, stairways and boardwalk.
Is the closure timeline hard and fast, or could it change?
This timeline is based on the expected schedule from a construction management firm that is managing these projects and that has experience with these types of projects, based on factors like a typical Michigan weather. If we get another mild winter like this year, construction might be completed earlier than projected, putting us in a good place for when the asphalt plants open in May. That could result in an earlier opening. Also, if we hire a contractor and they can’t start until mid-September, we might push back the closure date. Likewise, if we get heavy snowfall in winter, we could potentially open the park temporarily to snowshoe or ski if it’s an area without construction taking place. These decisions will be made as the project progresses based on the contractor’s schedule and ability to work.
Can I still use parts of the state park even during the closure?
Yes, you can. We are not allowing visitors north of the Sable River bridge (just before the park fee entrance area). However, the miles of beach along M-116 before the fee booth are open to visitors. The north part of the park accessed on foot through Nordhouse Dunes also is open for hiking, including walking to Big Sable Point Light from the north (though the lighthouse will be closed during this time). The South Trails and Piney Ridge Trails accessed from Piney Ridge Road will be open, though that area is not maintained and doesn’t have trail signage. And the waterways are open if you decide to approach the park via boat, such as the popular sand dune on Hamlin Lake. One key thing to note is that the Hamlin Lake beach, near the playground, will remain closed and boats will not be allowed to moor in that area. When the Skyline Trail repairs begin, that portion of the park will be closed.
What happens to campground reservations? Can I still camp at the state park in 2024 and 2025?
We are taking campground reservations as we always have up until and after the park closure dates, and the system won’t let you book dates during our closure period (tentatively for Sept. 3 2024 through July 1, 2025). If for some reason our construction is accelerated and we can open earlier, we will issue a two-week notice for when we are going to open the sites for reservations. All of this will be communicated on the Ludington State Park Facebook page, where we will also post construction updates.
We know people will be disappointed that they can’t visit the main part of the park or camp during the closure. What do you say to that?
This isn’t something we want to do – we’re park rangers, and we manage parks for people to enjoy. We hope we can get through this project as quickly as possible. But we have to close for the safety of our visitors. With a linear one-way entrance that the construction team needs to access, we can’t risk putting visitors in harm’s way of heavy equipment, gravel haulers, etc., nor do we want to put it on the contractors to watch for visitors stepping into their path. Safety is our number one reason for closing the park. That said, this is the single largest infrastructure improvement project we’ve had at Ludington State Park and probably will be in the future. It will make a really positive difference to our visitors in the future.
What will your park rangers do during the project?
We will be staffed at the park as usual, including at places like the camper registration and fee station to answer questions. Park management will set up office hours at the camper registration station each week so that we are available to meet with the public and answer questions. This time also is an opportunity to work on other parts of the park we don’t always get to address - erosion projects, trail repairs, sprucing up park buildings, etc. It’s a chance to get to some important long-term work we often don’t have time for, which all improves the park for visitors.
How can I keep up on park closure news and improvements?
We will be posting regular updates about the construction project and timeline, including photos, at the Ludington State Park Facebook page. You can also learn about the progress across all of the 27 Michigan State Parks undergoing upgrades on the DNR’s Building Michigan Together Plan - state parks progress webpage.
Jim Gallie is manager of Ludington State Park, where he has served in this role since 2011. A Ludington High School and Michigan State University graduate, Jim previously was supervisor of Mears and Bewabic State Parks for seven years and before that, a park officer at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.