Iconic home on Sleeping Bear Dunes set to be demolished

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LEELANAU COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- With 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore contains a massive amount of public land. Unlike national parks that were created out West, much of the Sleeping Dunes wasn’t always public land.

When it was created in 1970, around 1,600 private properties had to be bought by the government to create the lakeshore. Now 48 years later, one of the last remaining properties is being taken down.

“This is not a unique situation," Tom Ulrich, Deputy Superintendent of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. "What’s unique is the location and the visibility of the home, but this was something that was done many many times.”

With a beautiful view overlooking Lake Michigan and North Bar Lake, the home was built in a perfect spot. Until the National Lakeshore was created just months later in 1970. By law, since his house was built after 1964, the owner Ed Cole had to sell his property to the government. Which he did in 1972 for $61,175. He was then given 5 years to move.

“He was going to have a 5-year lease and then he had to move out after that," said Cole's nephew Edward Bradford. "Then they extended that for another 5 years and then right at the end of that second 5 year period, Congress passed a law that said you could basically have a life lease."

Many of the homes bought by the government have since been removed, but some homes still remain.

“There’s about roughly 10 homes that are still in this situation," Ulrich said. "The government has already purchased them, but the owners reserved the right to remain for a set period of time.”

That time came for Cole in 2015, when he passed away at the age of 84. With his death, the home would be turned over the lakeshore.

“Everyone knew this was going to happen," said Bradford, who reflected on great childhood memories from the home with his uncle. "I mean the rules were kinda laid down a long time ago so everybody just enjoyed spending time with Ed at the house and on the property as much as they could, knowing that someday this would come."

Before his passing, Cole enjoyed his retirement at the secluded home. While his family members will miss his special home, they will carry the memories from it forever.

“Obviously, his family members would’ve loved to have been able to have that house passed down because there were a lot of memories there and it served kind of as a family gathering point," said Bradford. "But Ed was able to stay there and enjoy it for his entire life... So I think everyone is pretty much O.K. with it.”

Now that they've secured the funds, the Lakeshore will go in during the summer of 2018 to remove the home. While many of the rangers have fond memories of Cole and spoke highly of him, Ulrich says returning the property to it's natural state will be a benefit for everyone.

“It’s a positive to the public because it opens up a really beautiful part of the park that they formerly were not allowed to use within the park boundary,” Ulrich said.

“It was sad to see my Uncle pass obviously but he got to spend his retirement where he wanted to be," said Bradford. "I know he was at peace with everything that happened because he knew what he was getting into, so I think it was just great he was able to be there as long as he did.”

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