This isn’t the easiest note to write, which gives me some comfort. Decisions like this shouldn’t be easy. But it is exciting and decisions like this should be exciting.
February 5th will be my last day with Little Forks Conservancy. I have been offered a position with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan as a Senior Program Officer with a focus on environmental and arts & culture grantmaking. Anyone who has talked with me for any significant amount of time knows my love for art, music, literature, and my belief in the importance of cultural institutions to communities and place-building. To combine that love with my commitment to conservation and a service area where I was raised is too good of an opportunity for me to pass up.
Little Forks has been an incredible place to work over the past 4+ years and I am so honored to have been part of progress on so many fronts. As LFC looks to the future with a new strategic plan to be developed, new office space to be determined, and some really exciting projects coming, I think it is quite good timing for me to step aside.
In thinking about what has been accomplished since the fall of 2016, it is quite impressive for a small staff! We opened our first preserve outside of Midland County, completed the Averill Access for All path, closed on the largest conservation easement in our organization’s history, and launched innovative programming aimed at underrepresented communities in the conservation and outdoor recreation worlds, while proactively addressing diversity, equity, and inclusivity issues both in the organization and alongside other partners. Some see the future of conservation as more acres protected and more dollars raised. I think that if we do not broaden the definition of what it means to be a conservationist, those acres and dollars will be for naught. I am proud that Little Forks is a leader in those efforts.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions and remote work availability in my new role, Tara and I will not be relocating immediately. Which means I have a lot of goodbye hikes to schedule at one of our preserves, so please be in touch! I look forward to continuing to support organizations in the community, even when we are no longer in the area.
I really want to make sure I do everything possible to have LFC positioned to make its 25th year its best yet. My focus will be on advancing our mission until my last day – and even then, I plan on continuing my involvement as a donor. A search committee, chaired by Mary Haslam, a member of the Board’s Executive Committee, will be forming shortly and more information will be available through email as well as on our website and social media accounts.
Every year the staff at Little Forks reflect on the closing year - our favorite moments, accomplishments, events and what we look forward to in the new year. Take a look at some of these moments below and feel free to share your favorite memories (and pictures!!) experienced on our preserves or with us in 2020!
26-acre conservation easement protecting 1,250 feet of frontage on the West branch of the Cedar River.
Another highlight from the year was our involvement in the Huron Pines AmeriCorps program. I have been very grateful to work with many AmeriCorps members over the year and have always been impressed by how much they can get done. This year, Forestview Natural Area was hit pretty hard by the dam failures resulting in an enormous amount of trash and debris on the floodplain, and damage to a footbridge. Huron Pines AmeriCorps members decided to hold their day of service to help us repair and clean up the damage from the flood. In one day, we were able to fill a 30-yard dumpster with debris and rebuild a new bridge allowing us to open back up the property which had been closed since May. I am very thankful for their hard work of all the members and their dedication to conservation.
Huron Pines AmeriCorps Members help to repair flood damage at Forestview.
Another highlight of 2020 was seeing the increased usage of our preserves during the pandemic. It really helps solidify the importance of our work in the community as our properties were able to provide a space for exploration, exercise and a bit of peace and calm in our world.
Looking ahead to 2021, I am excited about continuing our work in the Cedar River watershed to promote our conservation programs, and being able to work with volunteers again on our river clean up and stream sampling. In addition, I look forward to continued projects on our preserves to restore habitat and improve recreational opportunities. I am sure 2021 will be a year to remember.
Andrea and her daughter.
There were two highlights in 2020 that really stood out for me. One of them was learning how to better serve our community and strengthen our programs by attending the Learning Landscapes K-12 Leaders retreat for land trust educators in the Sierra Nevada mountains in March. The other highlight was learning how to create videos for our online platforms during the pandemic. Especially because my daughter was able to join me and be my director, camera kid, and co-producer! We built quality memories and spent time doing our favorite outdoor activities together.
Riverview Natural Area
In 2020, with the combined flood and pandemic, we had to adapt stewardship to be more mobile and work with less volunteers than normal. This meant more work on staff and the few wonderful volunteers that continued to help us - mask and all. I’d like to thank our long-time volunteers, Roger Garner and Denny Brooks for showing up multiple times this year to work in often hot conditions fixing the trails and cutting down invasive species.
Huron Pines AmeriCorps members.
We are also always grateful for having partnerships. When we needed help this year, our partners were there for us. Forestview Natural Area was wreaked from the flood waters and our partners from the north, Huron Pines AmeriCorps, came through with helping hands and funds to help rebuild and restore much of Forestview. We would not have had Forestview Natural Area open to you this fall if it wasn’t for them!
Riverview Natural Area
Join the Little Forks Conservancy for snowshoe hikes at some of our natural areas. We will have adult and teen sizes available for use, but feel free to bring your own if you prefer. Space is limited to 15. If there is not enough snow to use the snowshoes, we will go for a regular hike instead. Dress warmly and in layers, wear waterproof and warm boots, bring your own water bottle, and email Andrea with any questions, comments or concerns.
Covid regulations apply, please bring and wear your own mask.
January 18th at 2pm - Forestview Natural Area
February 15th at 4pm - Riverview Natural Area
Snowshoes available for events:
4 - size 21 (80-150lbs)
14 - size 25 (120-200lbs)
2 - size 30 (220-300lbs)