Now, that discussion may be moving forward.
“There’s constructive conversation,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh. “There’s certainly interest on our part.”
While nothing concrete is on the table just yet, Creagh said the company and the DNR are discussing the future of the 400-acre parcel, which is surrounded by state park land.
“There may be some mutual interest in a path forward,” he said.
“Sargent Sand has had discussions with the state regarding the long-term plan for the property and the further expansion of the Ludington State Park since the 1930s,” said Phil Johnson, environmental planner and spokesperson for Sargent Sand. “(The company ) continues to have informal discussions with the state, however, no formal proposals are currently pending.”
The DNR is ready and willing, said Ludington State Park Manager Jim Gallie, but right now, any momentum falls at the feet of Sargent Sand.
“It’s going to be more along the lines of when is Sargent Sand done with their operation, and when can the state and Sargent come into some sort of agreement,” Gallie said. “It’s no secret that the state has long had an interest in acquiring the property.”
Price has been a sticking point.
“In the past, there have been some discussions about purchasing the property. In those instances, it was just a difference between what the state saw as the appraised value and what (Sargent sees) the property worth, because they’re considering not only the property, but also the commodity — the sand — having value as a resource,” Gallie said.
Local support could make a difference, however.
“If they can’t afford as much as Sargent wants, I have some groups that are willing to fundraise,” said Julia Chambers, founder of local environmental group AFFEW. “A lot of people want this land for the state park.”
Those living near the mine have organized a “Save Our Dunes” campaign, with dozens of properties sporting yard signs.
“We’ve gotten some calls from folks who said they would help with grant applications,” Gallie said. “I think the time may come where that type of support, vocalized or written, could be very important to the process.”
The conversation comes as the mine’s five-year permit nears its expiration, on Dec. 31. The company recently filed for a permit renewal.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which oversees sand mining regulation and permitting, is offering a 30-day public comment period while it looks over the permit application and inspects the Ludington site. Unless the site is not in compliance with state statutes and permitting, a renewal must be granted.
“There’s potential for citizens to bring us a lot of attention and opinions that will not ultimately have bearing or weight on the decision,” said Adam Wygant, a section supervisor with the DEQ’s Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals, which handles mine permitting. “But that conversation definitely allows for the instance of information coming forward that we may or may not have been aware of.”