Traverse City, MI (PRWEB) July 22, 2014
For the first time in over a century, members of the public can visit one of the most beautiful parks in this Michigan community without owning or renting a boat of their own, says Traverse City Tourism, the town's destination marketing organization.
Local officials have decided to provide ferry service to Power Island, a 204-acre preserve of forests, wetlands, bluffs and beaches on West Grand Traverse Bay, from a nearby boat launch site in Bowers Harbor.
“This is really a special place, and it’s right smack-dab in the middle of our county,” said Alisa Kroupa, president of the Grand Traverse County parks commission. “The citizens pay for this park, yet until now we haven’t been able to provide them with access to it.”
The island lies three miles from shore at the entrance to Bowers Harbor, within sight of downtown Traverse City, and has a dock, a swimming beach, and a network of hiking trails through a dense maple-beech forest. At its northeast tip is a smaller islet called Basset Island, sometimes connected to the main island during low-water periods, which includes four rustic campsites – but at the turn of the century, it was the site of a dance hall that brought boatloads of couples out from Traverse City.
Originally known as Marion Island (a name many local residents still use), the main island was owned from 1917 to 1944 by automotive pioneer Henry Ford, who used it as a rustic retreat where he entertained friends like Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and as many as three U.S. presidents. Ann Arbor philanthropist, Eugene Power, donated it to The Nature Conservancy, which turned it over to the county parks department in 1975.
Since then, it’s been managed as a near-wilderness whose only human residents are a ranger and his family who stay in the summers to keep an eye on things. Thanks to its sheltered location, however, it’s one of the most popular boating and kayaking destinations on the bay. On summer weekends, its tiny harbor regularly fills with boats and frolicking boaters who congregate around the dock and swimming beach, or cluster in the shallows off its southern edge to enjoy the limpid Caribbean-clear waters and picnic on the tree-shaded beaches.
Solitary souls can find tranquility here even on the busiest days, since most visitors never venture more than a few yards from the water’s edge. The interior is a treat for hikers: five miles of well-maintained trails lead through the dense forest to a high ridge known as the Eagle’s Nest and along the wild western shore with its steep bluffs and rocky shoals.
The ferry – actually the boat used by the county park ranger -- can take up to six passengers at a time. Kroupa said the ferry is not intended to be a money-making enterprise; the charge is simply to cover the cost of fuel, labor and other expenses.
Cost for the round trip is $30 for the first rider of a group and $15 for each additional rider. Interested travelers can contact the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Department at (231)922-4818 to make reservations.