Little Traverse Conservancy’s slogan reads: Protecting the North country that we all love. This is not only an organization’s promise, but a community member lives by it.
The Little Traverse Conservancy is now in its 50th year of serving the community. It owes its volunteers for the incredible amount of work they have been able accomplish.
Anne Fleming (director of community outreach, communications) said that this community cares deeply because it is such a beautiful area and they want it to remain that way.
Fleming reports that 26 land protection projects were completed by the conservancy in 2021, 12 of which were new nature preserves. These additions were made to the already thousands upon thousands of acres under Little Traverse Conservancy’s protective umbrella, which stretches across Chippewa Mackinac Emmet, Cheboygan, Charlevoix, and Cheboygan counties.
Recently, the conservancy unveiled the new Seberon Bolenburger Nature Preserve. It is located off Five Mile Creek Road north from Harbor Springs. The preserve, which covers 40 acres, was dedicated in the memory of Liesel Litzenburger’s father and Little Traverse Conservancy cofounder Seberon Boro Litzenburger. The preserve covers nearly a quarter mile of Five Mile Creek. It now has one mile of trails (outside and back), a viewing platform that overlooks the creek and a bridge that crosses the creek.
The conservancy has around 150 land stewards who monitor the condition of land preserves out of hundreds. Volunteers are assigned a preserve and go out on their own to clear brush and invasive plants, inspect the condition of bridges and signs, and report any unsafe trail conditions.
Cacia Lesh (volunteer coordinator) says that volunteers are required to devote a certain amount of time to Little Traverse Conservancy depending on their schedule. Many volunteers are retired people who have more time.
Lesh explained that we have a Thursday crew. They act as a full-time staff person if you look at the annual numbers. These volunteers volunteer once a week, which is amazing.
Mary and John Merrill, residents of Readmond Township, are not only land stewards but also regular volunteers who are committed to land conservation.
John is on Little Traverse Conservancy’s Board, and Mary helps to gather data about the number of people who visit the trails each year. Mary also assists with trail maintenance.
The Merrills worked with Conservancy to obtain a conservation easement on their 40-acre property. This means that any future owners of the property must follow the rules to protect the land from development.
The Merrills moved from Columbus, Ohio to Northern Michigan five year ago to retire and to live on the property that they had owned for over three decades.
Mary stated that this is what drove Mary to tell us why we moved here. It was the property and the access to beautiful properties and lands.
Scot and Jilanne are both passionate about nature and volunteer their time with the Little Traverse Conservancy to be land stewards. Scot is an environmental consultant, and Jilanne is the park supervisor for Petoskey State Park.
Scot and Jilanne both work full-time, but Scot said that it doesn’t affect their ability volunteer with Little Traverse Conservancy because they would still be out on weekends to fish and hike.
Scot stated that this was something we thought would be a great idea to show our appreciation. We enjoy the preserves. We’re going out there picking-up trash anyhow, so let them know.
More information on the Little Traverse Conservancy is available at landtrust.org.
This article first appeared on The Petoskey News Review: Volunteers from the community are needed to conserve land.