Little Forks Conservancy is pleased to announce the completion of two conservation projects at the end of 2021. This takes our total of protected lands over 4,000 acres. We are grateful for the landowners that helped make this possible.
A 42-acre property in Bay County, just 10 minutes from Downtown Midland was donated by Tom and Barbara VanderKelen to Little Forks and will become a natural area open to the public. This property is already well-loved by the local community with social trails throughout and fishing on the three man-made ponds on the property.
For over 15 years we have been working with landowners in the Cedar River Watershed to protect and improve this amazing resource. Stay tuned for more details on these exciting new conservation projects.
Head over to the Land Protection page to learn more about conservation options in your area.
Not too far from the Chippewa River is a seven-acre property that was once part of a small family farm in Homer Township. This past summer, the Little Forks Conservancy accepted the donation of this property in honor of the family that owned it for generations.
The decision to donate the property was an easy one for John Anderson, as he and his late wife, Ursula, had discussed wanting to see it preserved for the education and enjoyment for the people of the Midland area. Ursula’s family had owned and lived near the property for years and to commemorate that legacy, John contacted Little Forks to preserve the family’s legacy.
The newly protected Anderson property will become the conservancy’s seventh nature preserve. Management objectives are being developed, but options include an outdoor learning space for Little Forks’ Nature/Nurture program as well as a small park area for the community. The property has been routinely mowed for hay, keeping invasive species just to the edges.
“This allows us to have a blank slate to work from and create something truly enjoyable for the community,” commented Sara Huetteman, preserve and volunteer manager.
Imagine not being able to stand on the banks of the Tittabawassee River to watch a bald eagle swoop by — or not having the chance to cross the path of a turtle meandering along as you explore a trail.
Many people in our community can’t enjoy those sights at Little Forks Conservancy’s Preserves because they aren’t physically able to hike the grass or trails.
“Visitors who enjoy Midland County Parks’ new accessible parking area and shelter on the boundary of the Averill Preserve may not be able to experience this beautiful preserve just steps away,” said Board President Jon DeGroot.
Thanks to donations from local foundations and members like you, Little Forks Conservancy has changed that.
At the Averill Preserve, we've added a hard surface trail to enable people with wheelchairs or families with strollers to easily explore the beautiful, historic preserve. The All Access Path leads to a open area with a Nature Play Area for children to explore nature in a safe place.
As part of this project:
Jon added, “We believe that this project will add to County Parks’ investment and create an inviting experience for all visitors to these properties.”
Once the largest timber banking grounds in the world, the property has been restored over many years to its current state.
“Of all our properties, the Averill Preserve has been the most impacted by previous uses of the land,” said Elan Lipschitz, director of land conservation. “I’m very excited about some of the opportunities for habitat restoration we have planned along the new trail.
In the late fall of 2017, what was once George and Sue Lane’s property in Gladwin County was donated to The Little Forks Conservancy. This was a collaboration between the Conservancy, the Leon P. Martuch Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and Chippewa Watershed Conservancy. George was a longtime Conservancy supporter, a former board member and a conservation easement donor.
The Lane property is 270 acres with three quarters of a mile of frontage on the North Branch of the Cedar River. The property includes important forestland habitat, open grasslands, and scenic views of the surrounding area. George and Sue’s stewardship ethic led to dramatic improvements to the property, specifically regarding wildlife habitat, removing sediment from the river and controlling erosion along the river. The North Branch of the Cedar River is one of a limited number of cold-water trout streams located within the northern reaches of the Saginaw Bay Watershed. The Lane family initially protected the property with a conservation easement and now the property will be a nature preserve to not only benefit the natural resources of the land, but also the local community.
With George and Sue’s vision for their land in mind and with partners like Trout Unlimited and Chippewa Watershed Conservancy alongside of us, we cannot wait to see what projects we can accomplish on the first Little Forks preserve outside of Midland county, a strategic goal of the last two strategic plans for the organization. The riparian corridor will be managed by the Leon P. Martuch Chapter of Trout Unlimited with the Conservancy managing the remainder of the property and Chippewa Watershed Conservancy holding the conservation easements.
In 2018, we began building trails, installed boundary markers, removed an old house and installed a parking area. The property can be accessed from a parking area located on Shearer Road approximately 1/3 mile south of M-18. “The George and Sue Lane Preserve has a lot of potential; we are starting with a mile of trail but hope to expand in the years to come” said Sara Huetteman, Little Forks’ Stewardship Coordinator.