Chippewa Watershed Conservancy acquires its first urban natural area

On Feb. 1 the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy (CWC), announced that the nonprofit organization had purchased its first urban natural area within the city of Mt. Pleasant.

Located along the Chippewa River, the natural preserve is a 17-acre property, encompassing a floodplain forest and is within walking distance of Central Michigan University’s campus.

Historically, the property was once part of the millpond, flooded portions of the floodplain in Mt. Pleasant that embodied a sawmill and a roller mill where grains were processed. The entirety of Mill Pond Park was part of the millpond and, until the 1920s, there was one dam in place that supported a portion of the river, while the other dam was removed.

Mike LeValley, Executive Director of CWC says that’s why they named it Mill Pond Natural Area – Walter & Frances Bolle Preserve because the property they’ve acquired was flooded as part of the millpond. The waters were later drawn from the millpond, and it was returned to its original state as a floodplain forest.
Chippewa Watershed Conservancy Executive Director Mike LeValley said that wood turtles, one of Michigan's species of "Special Concern" have been spotted on the preserve.
“This is something that we've never had the opportunity to do before,” LeValley says. “Vacant, natural land in urban spaces like the city Mt. Pleasant is pretty rare, to be honest. It's either parkland, land slated for development, or it's land that is in the private hands of owners who have no desire to get rid of.”

For over 40 years, Frances Bolle and her daughters, Jeanine Mishler and Darlene Sergent have kept the property. Bolle’s late husband, Walter Bolle owned one of the mills until he passed away in 1982. Since then, the family has kept the property in its natural state, allowing the CWC to sustain its living legacy.

Since the CWC is a nonprofit organization, they heavily rely on grants and donations for their operations. Thankfully, the CWC received a $70,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation that will help restoration efforts for the next five years.

“One of our major restoration efforts is to clear out the invasive species, restore some of those natives, especially trees, but our grant also calls for restoring some of the native wildflowers as well,” LeValley says. “In the long-term, we intend to put in a natural surface trail that will be along the river, since that’s the highest area of the property.”  

Read more articles by Danielle Patrick.

Danielle Patrick is a Chesterfield resident who finds passion in writing about the Mt. Pleasant community. In addition to her freelance work with Epicenter Mt. Pleasant, she also journals for Ignite Donuts and is an editor for Grand Central Magazine. She is set to graduate from Central Michigan University in Dec. 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Follow her on Instagram @_daniellepatrick_.