Leelanau Conservancy Working to Protect 700-Acre Hardwood Forest near Glen Lake: “A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity”
The Leelanau Conservancy has signed an option to purchase 700 acres that straddles the GlenLake and GoodHarbor Baywatersheds, with acreage in both Glen Arbor and Cleveland Townships. The land, owned by Ki Corp., is the largest contiguous privately-owned tract of forested land remaining in Leelanau County.
Conservancy Executive Director, Tom Nelson, says the proposed Palmer Woods Forest Reserve would offer “unparalleled four-season recreation opportunities on miles and miles of trails through rolling hills of a quintessential northern hardwood forest.” The land also adjoins the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and provides a 2.4-mile long buffer to the park, adding to an extensive wildlife corridor. Three quarters of the funds needed to purchase the property have been raised, but to exercise the option, the Conservancy must raise an additional $500,000 by July 21st.
If preserved, the property, located a mile east of Glen Lake just beyond Miller Hill, will stay on the tax rolls and be open to the public. “Ki Corp. acquired parcels over 40 years to create this beautiful woodland and has practiced sustainable forestry here for decades.” Nelson adds. “This property could easily be subdivided if not preserved.”
“The land is critical to the health of nearby Glen Lake,” stresses Nelson. “Because of the unique features of Glen Lake’s watershed, a majority of the water feeding Glen Lakeflows through the eastern side, where this property is located, providing critical water filtering functions and protecting the pristine waters of that beautiful lake.”
“This project is going to help protect the watershed now and for future generations so we won’t have to worry about pollutants coming into our groundwater and ultimately our lake.” Glen Lake Association president, Dennis Becker, says. “I don’t know any other organization that could pull this off. It requires sophisticated management and they’ve built a track record over the last 25 plus years.”
John Soderholm, Glen Arbor Township Supervisor, remarked, “Preserving Palmer Woods for year-round use by members of our community as well as visitors will help support our local businesses.”
Nelson says that in addition to creating an extensive trail system for hikers and cross-country skiers, the Conservancy hopes to use the property to demonstrate best practices in forest management. The Conservancy will continue to harvest timber here in a responsible and sustainable fashion. Careful management of Palmer Woods—everything from reintroducing native wildflowers to ensuring young saplings take hold—could make this proposed reserve a true demonstration project and important resource that would be unique in the state of Michigan. Palmer Woods could serve as an outdoor classroom for students of all ages as well as for private landowners who are trying to understand and manage the threats to their own forests.
“Northern hardwood forests are under siege by disease, pests, invasive species and climate change,” adds Nelson. “Between ash and beech tree losses, we stand to lose a crucial component of our forests. We feel that it’s more important than ever to preserve places like Palmer Woods.” Cleveland township supervisor, Tim Stein, said, “The Conservancy’s efforts to keep this property on the tax rolls as a working forest is the best possible outcome.”
The total project cost—including land purchase, timber management planning, initial trail development, funding stewardship responsibilities—is $4.1 million. No public monies are available for this project. “Most of the cost must be funded by individual and family contributions,” says Leelanau Conservancy Chairman Larry Mawby, who is helping to head up the fundraising efforts.
“We’re happy to report that we are well on our way. As of today three quarters of the project cost has been raised. The challenge ahead? We must raise over $500,000 in cash and pledges by July 21stto exercise the option to purchase the property.” Thanks to the generosity of The Brookby Foundation, The Homestead, Cherry Republic and an anonymous donor, gifts made in support of Palmer Woods before July 21 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $265,000.
The Conservancy will be conducting tours of the property through June and July for people interested in supporting this important project. Because the property is still privately owned, the landowner asks that it only be visited on guided Conservancy tours. You can learn more about making gift and hikes and tours at LeelanauConservancy.org.
The chance to permanently protect this exemplary northern hardwood forest has been in the works for over 20 years. “Like most of our projects, working with a family to create a strategy to protect their property is neither rapid nor simple,” adds Mawby. “When the time is right for the landowner, our Conservancy responds. In this case, knowing that our donors have made incredible generous gifts to our campaign, many of which have been committed to other projects, we asked ourselves: ‘Can we take on this ambitious new project?’ The answer was, ‘We must.’ This property is one of the highest priorities in our Strategic Land Conservation Plan. The family is ready to sell. We can’t control the timing of opportunity. With Palmer Woods, we have a unique opportunity and a great fund-raising task. We must do everything we can to meet the challenge.”
“Our dream, if we can acquire the property, is to make Palmer Woods a premier four-season quiet recreation destination,” concludes Nelson. “We envision working with other organizational partners to provide an extensive hiking trail system and perhaps groomed ski trails. The recreational opportunities at Palmer Woods are truly exciting.