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Lakeshore showcases ‘green’ initiatives

June 6, 2008
By MIRIAM MOELLER, Journal Staff Writer

MUNISING - "Going green" is nothing new for the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Since the early 1990s, with the help of grants from the federal government, park staff have been recycling, eliminating toxic products, installing solar panels, using bio-soy fuel and participating in the Climate Friendly Parks program. "Any time you can improve your operation and make it more sustainable, not having an adverse effect on the future, any time you can do that, you're certainly improving the overall health of the environment but also the general psyche of the people that are involved with that," said Chris Case, facility manager of the park. "We're the National Park Service, I think the American public kind of expects that kind of consciousness. We should be leaders to show folks good environmental consciousness." Case said that in the early 1990s, park staff was working to lower the toxicity of cleaning and hygiene products used in the parks. "Things like 'Simple Green' were just coming out, safer products were becoming available and we were looking primarily at cleaning products and fleet operation products," Case said. Today, the park service is using mostly non-toxic, environmentally friendly products. In the mid-1990s, the park became a venue to try out recycled plastic and lumber products for use in picnic tables, boardwalks and decks. At the same time, a park recycling program was initiated. In the late 1990s the park explored fueling its fleet of trucks and equipment with bio-fuels, including bio-diesel and bio-soy transmission fluid. "Part of our responsibility was to show the public they you can use vegetable oil and you don't need petroleum," Case said. Also, around the same time, the park initiated several solar-powered projects. The historic 1874 Au Sable Light Station was equipped with a 5-kilowatt photovoltaic power system that provides energy for electricity and to run water well and fire suppression pumps. The remote Sullivan Cabin in the park features photovoltaic collector shingles on its roof that produce energy for lights, a water pump and appliances. Six solar-powered well pumps are scattered throughout the park. All of these projects were partly funded by programs and partnerships with the United States Department of Energy, Case said. While the federal government provided the funding, the park's responsibility was -and still is - to promote these alternative and environmentally friendly energy systems and programs. "We're continuing with promoting all this," Case said. "The '90s decade was recycling and photovoltaics and using safer products. In 2000, it's been more the bio-fuels. This decade has been a lot of promotion. We have spent a lot of time on the road to other parks showing folks this environmental responsibility." Case said the park has been recognized for its "green" efforts nationwide. In 2001 and 2005, park members received the Department of the Interior Environmental Achievement Award and in 2002 the White House Closing the Circle Award. Years ago Case would get phone calls from individuals interested in bio-fuels and solar energy. Now he said cities are calling him for advice, including recent inquiries from the City of Austin, Texas. "We headed this five or six years before everybody caught on," Case said. "We're certainly making an impact." The park's most recent initiative, Climate Friendly Parks, is a joint partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service. "We put together an action plan of ways to reduce our carbon footprint in management and energy conservation," Case said. Case added that the park is currently also exploring geothermal technology. He said although these "green" programs are part of his job, they often take over his spare time. "A lot of that stuff I do on my own time, but I believe in it so much because this is what we should be doing," he said. "It's taken so long for this movement and consciousness to finally become so predominant; it's hard not to get caught up in it." For more information, visit the park's Web site at

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