As one of Michigan’s most beloved inland lakes, Crystal Lake has long drawn generations of residents and visitors to its sparkling waters, sandy beaches, and surrounding
wooded bluffs.

And for 25 years, the Railroad Point Natural Area has been a favorite recreational destination for visitors to Crystal Lake’s shores. When coupled with the 29-acre Crystal Lake Outlet to the west, the properties create a 4,300-foot strip of public frontage on the lake, safeguarding water quality and providing a peaceful place for respite and recreation.

Yet the outlet parcel has become increasingly popular among beachgoers, paddlers, and Betsie Valley Trail users, who frequently use the property as a resting stop. So much so that dozens of cars have been spotted parked along the road near the parking area, posing risks to safety, damage to the landscape, and overuse.

While plans are preliminary, an effort to install infrastructure that would address these challenges and enhance recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities is poised to move forward. The initial design plans include an improved gravel parking area, portable restrooms, a boardwalk, a walk-in non-motorized boat launch, and a boat washing station—all designed for
universal access. The plans also include improved access to the Betsie Valley Trail, which traverses the property.

The county was awarded a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for the project, and an additional $80,000 of Benzie County ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds were allocated to the Parks and Recreation Department.

The Conservancy is actively seeking local matching funds for the grant to help people enjoy the beauty of Crystal Lake, enhance recreational opportunities for all, and nourish a sense of community among those who care for this special place.

Still Needed