Every year when school gets out I know I can soon look forward to a family reunion at Ludington State Park. Last year I wrote about privatizing the state park, but this year I learned some interesting history to share and consider. As it is the Park’s 75th birthday this year, they were leading history walks throughout the summer, one of which my family and I attended.
The land on which the park rests was originally purchased by private owners before it was sold to the state. It was not developed until the Great Depression, when the CCC was formed. They camped on Hamilton Lake and built the beach house and other parts of the park as part of FDR’s New Deal. (Though our guide was all for the plan, I could not help thinking of “Great Myths of the Great Depression”).
The most fascinating part of the tour was learning that the Hamlin dam, which has provided us with a lake and fishing grounds for years, was a pork barrel project. It was pushed for by the owners of resorts on the other end of the lake after the old dam broke and the shoreline receded, destroying their view and swimming areas. It took me awhile to sort out my feelings on this one, as pork barrel spending is one of those things that make my skin crawl and yet it was caused by businesses which I would tend to support. Much of this feeling was probably encouraged by the tourguide’s less than enthusiastic view of the private sector. I was thoroughly disappointed that they did not just pool their resources and invest in a dam themselves. Upon further research, however, I learned that it is in fact not allowed for any private entity to build a dam on a stream on state property. This would render it impossible for the people owning these resorts to restore the value of the land themselves if they were building it on the State Park’s property. Now, maybe they were excited about the idea of using the government to spend money on the dam so they would not have to, but despite their actions, the fact that they were able to get it built as pork was a flaw of the government’s, not their’s. Though they may have found a way to use the government for a short time, they were actually entering into a realm of less freedom and more government power. Were there less regulations and were the government limited (even to the extend of not owning the land), the dam could have been a result of the resort owners pooling their money and building it themselves.
This being said, I am not the ideal campsite guest for a big government friendly tour guide.