Preserving a 'Place of Peacefulness'

The Little Traverse Conservancy has accomplished quite a milestone: Preserving the largest unprotected, undeveloped shoreline property along Lake Michigan between Charlevoix and the Mackinac Bridge.

The 56-acre, heavily wooded parcel, with a quarter mile of shoreline on Little Traverse Bay, had been in the same family for generations and went up for sale in the summer of 2022. The family never developed the property but simply made visits to enjoy nature. Neighbors used the property to walk trails that had been created over the years.

Thanks to an anonymous donor and a multitude of individual donors, the Conservancy was able to purchase the property for $3.15 million, the biggest investment in land in the nonprofit organization's 51-year history.

"It really gets to the heart of what people value in Northern Michigan," says Emily Hughes, the organization's chief development officer. "This speaks to what people value about this place, the beauty, access to water, access to the bay. People value being able to be in nature and going for a walk or stroll. This (purchase) opens a lot of opportunities for a lot of people and a new way to enjoy nature."

That new way is the Conservancy's first owned and cared-for universally accessible trail, allowing the preserve, The Place of Peacefulness, to be used by all -- including walkers, strollers, and wheelchairs. The trail is expected to open in the fall of 2024.

What's happening: The Little Traverse Conservancy has preserved the largest undeveloped, unprotected parcel of land along the Lake Michigan shoreline between Charlevoix and the Mackinac Bridge. The conservancy purchased a 56-acre tract with one-quarter of a mile shoreline along Little Traverse Bay in the Charlevoix County community of Bay Shore. 

Neighbors often walk the trails created over the years on the 56-acre tract.Background: The Conservancy was able to visit the wooded sanctuary in the fall of 2022 to see whether the tract was worth protecting. The property had been listed for sale for $4.9 million in the summer and was still on the market. After a visit, the Conservancy had no doubt the property was worth protecting and was able to negotiate the price with the owners.

A long-time Conservancy member, Jennifer Adderley, was among those who visited the property early on and believed in its protection, pledging the first major gift, from the Terence and Jennifer Adderley Foundation. 

The challenge: The challenge was raising the money to purchase the property. Developing a universally accessible trail added to the cost, bringing the total price tag to $3.65 million.

The funding: The Charles M. and Joan R. Taylor Foundation, Inc. shared the belief that the land deserved to be protected. Joining together with the anonymous lead donor, a vision was made to create Enji-minozhiiyaamigak, the Anishinaabemowin word for “The Place of Peacefulness.”

In addition to Adderley's gift, funding has also come from the Frey Foundation, Soter Kay Foundation, Teddy and Molly Schiff, Gordon and Sharon Hassing, and 142 donors.

Honoring all: Recognizing that U.S. 31 is a well-traveled route for many visitors, the anonymous lead donor wanted this to be a place for all. The donor also wanted to honor the history of the land and the Bay Shore Band of Odawa who had lived there. All signs will be in Anishinaabemowin first and English following.

To create a place for all, the Conservancy will build its first owned and cared-for universally accessible trail. The Place of Peacefulness could not be open to all without a trail that can be used by all – including walkers, strollers, and wheelchairs. Brynne and Bob Coletti of Harbor Springs and Naples, Florida, believed in this vision and made the first-ever quadruple match challenge in the Conservancy's history to ensure that the accessibility component was included.

About the conservancy: The Little Traverse Conservancy works to protect the natural diversity and beauty of northern Michigan by preserving significant land and scenic areas, as well as fostering appreciation and understanding of the environment. Its service area includes Chippewa, Mackinac, Emmet, Cheboygan, and Charlevoix counties. To date, the organization has helped protect nearly 70,000 acres, partnering with private landowners as well as with state and local governments. 
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