Sleeping Bear Inn Leased to Non-Profit Group

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has issued a 40-year lease to non-profit organization Balancing Environment and Rehabilitation (BEAR) for Sleeping Bear Inn and Garage in Glen Haven, according to the National Park Service.

Officials say the lease allows the Inn to be rehabilitated and opened as a premier bed and breakfast lodge.

A public open house of the buildings will be held on Friday, April 8 at 1 p.m. following a short ceremony. It will give Michiganders the opportunity to see the buildings as they are before rehabilitation.

The Sleeping Bear Inn was originally built between 1865-1867. It served as a frontier hotel for business travelers and local workers.

The Inn continued operations throughout the next century, evolving into a tourist hotel. It has been closed since the mid-1970s.

Officials say BEAR submitted a proposal to the National Lakeshore in 2018 to rehabilitate the Inn and operate it as a bed and breakfast.

The signing of the lease, according to officials, is the, “culmination of negotiations that included approvals from the State Historic Preservation Office and the commercial services branch of the National Park Service.”

Additionally, the lease allows a bed and breakfast inn with approximately nine guest rooms, a commercial kitchen and dining areas.

BEAR was established to respond to the Expression of Interest issued by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to rehabilitate Sleeping Bear Inn and Garage.

The group’s mission is to make the sure the history and heritage of Glen Haven is made sustainable through the rehabilitation of its historic structures. They believe preserving the history and legacy of previous generations is essential for future generations.

Officials state BEAR Executive Director Maggie Kato has wide-ranging experience pertaining to this operation that she gained over 15 years while serving as the executive director of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity before she retired in 2020.

During her tenure, the group completed close to 500 home builds and owner-occupied repair projects.

Kato also built the organization from an annual operating budget of $500,000 in 2005 to $6,500,000 upon her retirement.

Kato’s husband Jeff has extensive restaurant management experience and will be working alongside her at the Sleeping Bear Inn.

“We are thrilled to see this project come to fruition. We have been working closely with the BEAR team and have full confidence in their abilities. The lease will preserve the two buildings and provide a wonderful visitor experience in the historic Glen Haven Village,” said Superintendent Scott Tucker. “We believe this lease will make the Sleeping Bear Inn the oldest working historic hotel in the entire national park system.”

“On behalf of our Board of Directors, BEAR is humbled to be part of the rich heritage of Leelanau County and Glen Haven Village,” stated Kato. “We are grateful for the welcoming support of the community and the many folks with history and ties to the Sleeping Bear Inn, and it is our hope to weave those threads throughout its renovation and operation.”

For more information about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, click here.