New Washtenaw County nature preserve is now open to the public

This article is part of Inside Our Outdoors, a series about Southeast Michigan's connected parks, greenways, and trails and how they affect residents' quality of life. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

The Secrest Nature Preserve, an 80-acre conservation area in Superior Township, is now officially open for public visitation. 

Located near the intersections of Ford and Berry roads, the preserve is owned by the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy (SMLC). It's also part of a largerShagbark hickory at SNP network of protected lands that collectively make up a roughly 2,700-acre wildlife and public recreation corridor known as the Superior Greenway

Jill Lewis, SMLC's executive director, believes the opening of the new conservation zone is a win for both wildlife and the public.

"From a conservation perspective, the more acres that you can protect that are contiguous or fairly close together, the more larger species have the space that they need [to thrive]," she says. "[And] from a public access standpoint, that location is key because it's easily accessible from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti as well as [to] residents from [Superior] Township."

SMLC purchased the property for the conservation area in 2019 with financial support from the city of Ann Arbor's Greenbelt Program. The establishment of the nature preserve there was also enabled by Washtenaw County, which holds a conservation easement on the property. 

Although SMLC had intended to wrap up work on a public hiking trail at the site last year, construction for the project was stalled due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic. Trail work was finally completed last summer and a private dedication ceremony was held on Sept. 12. While the preserve's new hiking trail loop is less than a mile in length, it's part of a larger two-mile Superior Greenway trail network that also includes walking paths at Washtenaw County's Weatherbee Woods Preserve and Superior Township's Schroeter Park.

Secrest Nature Preserve is named after a family that's been active in Superior Township land protection efforts for many years. The 80-acre area's habitat is a mix of woodlands, wetlands, and fallow farmland. SMLC eventually wants to engage in habitat restoration work on the preserve, especially the unused farmland portion of the property, which is prone to invasive plant growth. The organization is particularly interested in reestablishing grasslands, a declining habitat in the state, to the site and enhancing wetland areas there. 

Looking forward, SMLC is also interested in adding trails to the preserve as it proceeds with habitat restoration work. Right now, the organization is focused on building a parking lot on the site, which it hopes to have completed next year. In the meantime, visitors are asked to park along Berry Road. 

Volunteers interested in helping out with trail-clearing or invasive species removal at Secrest Nature Preserve can find out more about those activities through the SMLC website.
Map of Secrest Nature Preserve and neighboring greenway areas