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      Sleeping Bear budget cuts mean fewer summer staff and limited access

      It's been called the most beautiful place in America but if you plan to visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this summer you may notice some changes.

      Federal cuts have hit this popular destination, slashing the park's annual budget by more than $230,000 dollars. The sequestration, a series of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, has forced the National Lakeshore to reduce its annual budget by five-percent. The park has to absorb this spending cut in the remaining seven months of the fiscal year (ending in September).

      For the Sleeping Bear Lakeshore, the spending cuts amount to a $234,000 reduction from its overall budget of $4,676,000.

      Deputy Superintendent of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Tom Ulrich says, "It's not a fun situation for anyone in the National Park Service, were all very proud of the work we do, preserving this special place so people can come enjoy it and our ability to do that is going to be compromised by the cuts we have to take with sequestration..." Ulrich adds, â??Timing really couldn't be worse for us because weâ??re anticipating another big year and here we have to cut these servicesâ?|"

      After being named â??The Most Beautiful Place in Americaâ?? by Good Morning America, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore saw a record number of visitors in 2012, nearly 1.53 million.

      The park has shortened 22 seasonal jobs and cut an additional five seasonal jobs.

      Also a part of the budget cuts are the following:

      -Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive will not open until Memorial Day Weekend and will close after Labor Day.

      -Ranger programs, including environmental education programs for school groups, will not be available until Memorial Day Weekend and will cease after Labor Day.

      -Other than those at the Visitor Center and campgrounds, restrooms and trash cans will not be available until Memorial Day Weekend and will close after Labor Day. This includes Manitou Islands.

      -Mowing of picnic areas and historic farmsteads will be sharply reduced.

      -Protection and monitoring of the endangered Piping Plover will be reduced, as will follow-up control of invasive plants such as black locust.

      Overall, park officials the budget cut will affect over 250,000 park visitors, including 10,000 school children. Ulrich says, "Weâ??re anticipating that we will lose about $71,000 in revenue, in which we usually retain about 80 percent."