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E-M:/ Former dune recalled with great sadness

The Editor's note to this readers letter is worth remembering.
Sunday, December 10, 2006

Recently I purchased the four-book set on early Muskegon (they were worth much more than I paid). They brought back many fond memories, as well as things that brought tears to my eyes.

I was born in 1942, and remember Pasco's, the remnants of the Actors Colony, Pigeon Hill, and the awful sand docks and miles of conveyor belts that took our hill.

My dad showed and told me the history of the dance hall, Ferris wheel, bowling alley, etc. My father was born in Utica, N.Y., in 1911 and came to Muskegon in 1913.

The tears flowed when I remembered those pan- (cast iron) fried perch, the beautiful view from the top of my hill, the house boats along Edgewater Street, the fishing tugs and countless other memories.

I am writing to find out who gave the sand company permission to destroy one of the most beautiful areas in the city. Was it the city commission? I am lucky. I climbed that hill many times as a boy, and would give anything to see that wonderful view just one more time.

I know times must change, but do we have to rape the land in the name of progress? Thank God there are still a few houses along the east end of the channel.

Why can't we bring back some of yesteryear? Develop the land with small, affordable houses, make a seasonal trailer city like they had when I was a boy.

I think our city fathers, today as yesterday, have not only sand in their shoes, (a great book) but also rocks in their heads.

Don Majeski, Muskegon

(Editor's note: It was indeed the Muskegon City Commission of 1926 that was the culprit, although not in the way people might expect. The famed sand dune was owned by local resident D. D. Erwin, who tried to sell Pigeon Hill to the city "at a fair price," but his offer was rejected. So Erwin sold it to the Pere Marquette Railroad Co., which in turn sold it to the then newly formed Nugent Sand Co. Work on dismantling the 300-foot-high dune began in 1928 and most of what was once Pigeon Hill vanished a decade later. For what it's worth, many area citizens were up in arms over the city's failure to acquire the hill with one, John Bennink, an Apple Avenue market owner, warning the city fathers that "Pigeon Hill was placed there by God to protect this city. It saves us from storms that sweep over the lake. If it is removed, the wrath of God will be upon us." When work commenced to remove the sand in 1928, The Muskegon Chronicle headline that day read, "Pigeon Hill is doomed.")