The Lay of the Land

It is something many of us look forward to – the day the Michigan Historic Preservation Network annual conference brochure lands in our mailboxes or on our desks. If you’re like me, you quickly page through the entire brochure to get a sense of the conference venue and theme (and admire the beautiful pictures), and then settle in, pen in hand, to read all the details and make the difficult decision of which sessions to attend.

But as I read this year’s brochure, I could see that this wasn’t going to be just difficult, it was going to be nearly impossible. How am I supposed to choose between sessions on the revitalization of urban waterfronts, the rediscovery of the West Michigan Pike, and a 1920s water-conserving estate garden? Can I decide whether I’m going to get “Hooked on Fishtown” or explore Michigan Modern’s West Michigan connections? And I’d need Hermione Granger’s Time Turner to fit in the tours of our host communities at the same time.

Difficult choices aside, what excites me most about this year’s conference is its emphasis on landscapes. Urban waterfronts. Historic tourism routes. Estate gardens. Lakeside communities. National parks. The conference theme – “Just Add Water” – has inspired our speakers to talk about preserving that sense of place uniquely inherent in our Michigan landscapes, whether they are formally designed estates or vernacular villages, neighborhood water gardens or 400 mile long highway corridors. Nowhere is the significance of the landscape more evident than in our host communities, Saugatuck and Douglas, with their rich and complex landscapes encompassing water resources, thriving cultural centers, welcoming neighborhoods,and a 2,000 acre river and dunes coastal district. At this year’s conference, we are invited more than ever to consider how we have

Historic view of Mount Baldhead overlooking the Harbor. Photo with permission from the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society

shaped, and been shaped by, our state’s historic landscapes. So I hope you will join us within the historic cultural landscape of Saugatuck-Douglas to attend what I think will be our best conference yet. Maybe by then I’ll have decided which sessions to attend…

Ruth Mills,

MHPN Board Member

The 2011 MHPN Annual Conference – Just Add Water – will be held May 19-21, 2011, in the historic communities of Saugatuck and Douglas.  Programming includes a  in-seat and hands-on educational sessions, tours, the free keynote presentation by Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell from 1-2:10 on Friday, May 20th, the presentation of the MHPN Historic Preservation Awards, a Vendors Showcase, a silent auction, and much, much more!  Come for the conference and stay for the fun of a Saugatuck Douglas Weekend.   

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