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State of Michigan

Hoffmaster State Park’s Dune Climb Stairway

Project Description

The first phase of this project was completed in the summer of 2016, and phase two is currently underway to replace the rest of the overlook.

P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, established in 1963, sits amid spectacular coastal sand dunes on Lake Michigan’s shore south of Muskegon, and offers campsites, beach access, a wonderful visitor center, and hiking trails. Part of a 4.1 mile pedestrian loop trail is the Dune Climb Stairway, a 193–step wooden structure leading to the top of one of the tallest parabolic dunes in the park, overlooking Lake Michigan. Before this project, the decades-old stairway had come to a point where it needed replacement. Leaning posts, sagging stairs, and rotting timbers caused safety and accessibility concerns.

Prein&Newhof worked with Hoffmaster State Park staff to design a longer-lasting replacement for the dune climb stairway and observation deck. The initial plan was to replace both the stairway and observation deck on top of the dune, but budget availability resulted in only replacing the stairway, which was the most crucial part to replace, for the time being.

Prein&Newhof reviewed several construction materials to decide which was the most cost effective and offer the longest life. The design team chose a galvanized steel substructure with treated timber framing.

Because of the site’s remoteness and severity, Prein&Newhof’s design team researched construction material delivery methods to minimize damage to the critical dunes. Heavy woods and severe slopes limited access to the site, so a small-wheeled vehicle was the only suitable equipment for installation and material delivery. The design team met with several contractors before taking bids to estimate construction costs and devise workable installation methods.

Prein&Newhof teamed with a local landscape architect and arborist to meet critical dune permitting rules and integrate user-friendly features into the design. The team met with the State Park’s education staff, who asked to include landings and overlooks to allow visitors to maximize their educational experience.


Kevin Kieft, PE
Project Manager