Day 4: Dunes, Sand Mining and the Greening of Grand Rapids

A Morning Amidst Michigan’s Iconic Freshwater Dunes

The largest collection of freshwater sand dunes in the world is strung along Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline. Geologically speaking, these dynamic ecosystems are young – first blowing up on shore only 16,000 years ago. Today, these dynamic ecosystems are still in flux. The group took a hike with a dune geologist to learn about their formation and conservation.

Sand Mining in the Dunes: Historic Company Meets Modern Opposition

Ludington State Park is one of Michigan’s most popular destinations and home to a fantastic example of freshwater sand dunes. It is also home to a 400-acre sand mine run since the 1930s by the Sargent Sand Company. Sargent is still owned and operated by its founding family, and has a long history in the area. It was closely involved in the creation of the park, providing a lot of the land for its creation. For 70 years or so, it was business as usual for Sargent until the oil and gas boom created demand for a particular kind of sand – the kind that’s especially good for fracking. The resulting round-the-clock activity has many residents calling for changes in the mine’s permit – which is up for renewal at the end of this year. The group met with local residents, representatives of FracTracker Alliance, Michigan DEQ, and Ludington State Park. 

The Greening of Grand Rapids: A City Charts an Ambitious Clean Energy Future

Grand Rapids’ ambitious initiative to be powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2020 was recently revised. But, by purchasing renewable energy from utilities, installing sustainable projects, and aggressively boosting energy efficiency, the city has still made a lot of progress. While the “100% renewable” date was recently pushed back to 2025, Grand Rapids is still considered a model, even named the most sustainable city in America in 2010 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And, at the end of last year, a group of downtown businesses announced the creation of the Grand Rapids 2030 District, joining cities across the nation working to reduce energy use, water consumption and transportation emissions in downtown areas. The group gathered at Rockford Construction Headquarters to talk with city leaders about how they got to where they are and what they need to hit their goal.