Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear raises funds to move barn from beavers, rising water


From staff reports

Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear seeks to raise $50,000 to move the Goffar Barn in the National Lakeshore out of Narada Lake. The lake, east of the Port Oneida Rural Historic District, is a quiet spot to view wildlife from the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail boardwalk. But the 150-year-old barn is in danger of being lost, as its timber posts sit precariously in water and mud from encroaching water levels due primarily to beaver activity.

The preservation project for the 25-year-old nonprofit is to move the barn away from the lake about 80 feet toward the Goffar farmhouse, which was recently restored by the National Park. The initiative requires building a new foundation, hiring an excavator, and a moving contractor able to lift and move the two-story, 340-foot x 40-foot structure — not an easy task. The Goffar farm is one of the significant historic properties in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore listed on the national register of historic places.

“For the most part, cultural and natural resources play nicely together,” said Preserve’s executive director Susan Pocklington. Challenges do arise however, when preservation of structures and wildlife habitat bump into each other. Beavers, bats, and nesting birds, for example, are some of the wonderful wildlife found in Sleeping Bear that play a big role in the ecosystem. Spotting beavers and their engineered dams makes for a cool visitor experience and can be seen in their enlarging habitat on Narada Lake between the Goffar farm and North Unity School.

“But, these small critters can create big problems when it comes to preserving Sleeping Bear’s historic buildings and landscapes.”

The project requires extra measures from preservation crews which, by policy, must work with or work around wildlife habits and habitat. In the case of the Goffar barn, our furry friends, along with mother nature have created a dilemma. This structure, literally in the lake, has brought this issue to the surface perhaps like no other. The Goffar, and then Prause family farmed their 80 acres here for decades. According to Preserve, beavers posed no threat in those days, as they were trapped or hunted by residents and Native Americans.

Last year the National Lakeshore asked Preserve to fund an assessment of the barn and recommendations for how to save and restore it. Given that the beavers are here to stay, well-known Leelanau County barn-whisperer Jeff Reinhardt was contracted and advised that the best way to save the barn was to relocate it on the same property, and to do so in one piece rather than taking it apart and reassembling it.

Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear is seeking more donors from the community to get involved and help fund the project with the amount yet to be raised at about $12,000.

“Due to possible bat habitation in the barn, there is only a small window of time in October and before the snow flies to make the move,” said Pocklington.

To help Preserve save this historic structure, visit and donate at The nonprofit is funded by its members and grants and assists the park in preserving and interpreting the rich heritage of Sleeping Bear’s historic structures and cultural landscapes.