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Lake Michigan erosion endangering 400-ton historic pavilion

September 14, 2019 GMT

MANISTEE, Mich. (AP) — A 400-ton pavilion built in the 1940s could fall 100 feet from a bluff into Lake Michigan if nothing is done to fight erosion from rising waters at a state park in Michigan.

Doug Barry, Orchard Beach State Park supervisor, said the limestone pavilion sits about 50 feet (15 meters) behind the edge of a bluff that’s eroding at a median annual rate of 6 inches (15 centimeters).

Though the structure isn’t in imminent peril, the Department of Natural Resources is working to ensure that it doesn’t fall off the edge, he said. The work to save it could start as early as fall 2020, MLive.com reported.

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“It’s like nothing I’ve ever been in,” Barry said of the pavilion. “It’s a really unique structure.”

Barry noted that engineering firm GEI Consultants has been commissioned to survey the erosion and find ways to salvage the historic building and restore a beach.

The 201-acre (81-hectare) park provides camping, pavilions, trails and views of Lake Michigan. But the park hasn’t had a beach since 2017 due to the high water that also jeopardizes the pavilion, Barry added.

Along with the park itself, the pavilion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in October 2009. At that time, water levels were low and there was a sizeable beach at the bottom of the bluff.

However, park visitation is down this year and Barry said the decline can likely be attributed to the lack of on-site beach access.

There has been above average erosion this year since a flood in July that triggered a mudslide, combined with high Lake Michigan water levels.

High water in the Great Lakes is impacting communities across Michigan. Beaches have vanished, roads, bridges and parks have shut down and hasty currents have swept people away.

Gabion baskets — stones in wire netting — are set up at the bottom of the bluff to assist with erosion but aren’t a lasting solution for the pavilion or beach.

Potential methods to relocate the structure away from the edge include disassembling and reassembling the building or moving it on tracks.

But funding will likely need to come from the DNR, endowments, donations and fundraisers, Barry said.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, http://www.mlive.com