Photo of a row of homes near Grand Trunk Launch Ramp in Muskegon's Lakeside neighborhood.

GVSU research: Restoration of Muskegon Lake increases home values by $7.9 million, additional recreation benefits total nearly $28 million annually

A row of homes near Grand Trunk Launch Ramp in Muskegon's Lakeside neighborhood is near the lake restoration efforts.

A study by an interdisciplinary team of GVSU researchers reexamined the economic impact that coastal restoration to Muskegon Lake is having on area property values and recreational opportunities for the surrounding community.

Paul Isely, associate dean and professor of economics, first analyzed the housing market surrounding restoration sites along the southern shoreline of Muskegon Lake in 2011. His original study predicted $11.9 million in additional housing value and an additional $2.8 million annually in recreation value.

Using data from 2018 and 2019, Isely's team found the total value of shoreline improvements based on home sale prices to be estimated at $7.9 million, and the value of additional recreational benefits estimated at $27.9 million annually. 

Erik Nordman, associate professor of natural resources management, conducted the property value model; Julie Cowie and Kendra Robbins provided research support.

Isely said the increase in recreation value between the two studies is due to additional restoration activity across the lake and a larger increase in the numbers of visitors than what was forecast in 2011. 

"There have been major improvements to Muskegon Lake and the downtown Muskegon area," said Isely. "However, the additional visits to the area in this study can be attributed to the lake. Cruise ships are coming to Muskegon Lake, more people are purchasing homes, launching boats and going sailing. The improvements are drawing people to Muskegon Lake even more than we thought."

Muskegon Lake
The analysis showed how restoration enhanced recreational opportunities, leading to a strong economic impact.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

Isely said the removal of the Sappi Paper Mill, replacement of hardened shoreline with a softer shoreline and the removal of fill from sawmills has helped home values increase.

"This is exciting. It shows really powerful value," he said. "In 2011, the housing value and additional recreational opportunities represented a 6-to-1 return on investment. This study validates that that is true, if not bigger."

Study highlights:

An estimated 485,000 additional annual visits to the lake following restoration, an 11 percent increase 

People who visited the lake before restoration now visit two to four times more per season 

The total value of increased home values due to shoreline restoration was estimated at $7.9 million 

The total value of additional recreation following restoration was estimated at $27.9 million annually

The additional recreational spending represents an estimated 4 percent increase annually for Muskegon County

Paul Isely
Paul Isely said the results show powerful value.
Image Credit: Rachael Mooney

James Clift, Great Lakes commissioner and deputy director at Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, said: "This study provides further evidence that restoring the Great Lakes benefits both our environment and economy. The Great Lakes Commission is proud to work with local partners like GVSU, as well as state and national partners, to create jobs, provide new tourism and recreation opportunities, and improve the quality of life in communities across the Basin."

Approximately $35,000 was made available for this project through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Grand Valley also received funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Department of Commerce, through a Regional Partnership with the Great Lakes Commission. 

More information is available in the final detailed report.

Photo of Muskegon Lake.
An empty lot in downtown Muskegon has been platted for a new housing development with views of Muskegon Lake and Hartshorn Marina.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills