Name that preserve (in one hike or more)

Story updated June 30, 2016

KL Avenue might be an OK name for a street but when it comes to identifying a 70-acre natural area with trails through black oak barrens and wooded uplands KL is just not very descriptive.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is looking for a name that better reflects the natural wonders of the property in Oshtemo Township that has till now been known as the KL Avenue Nature Preserve. It received more than100 entries in the naming contest for the nature preserve at KL Avenue in Oshtemo Township.

These are the top 10 names submitted (in alphabetical order) and a brief description of their meanings:

Dragonfly Walk--After extensive habitat restoration, this property has become a haven for local dragonflies. The newly-cleared meadows on this property provide the perfect hunting grounds for mature dragonflies who began their lives in lakes and ponds found elsewhere in the area. During certain times in the spring, you won't be able to walk a few feet on the property without seeing at least one, if not several of these cool, prehistoric creatures.

Glacier Trails--One of the first things you will notice about this property is its dynamic topography - with ridges, rolling hills, and kettle holes--all the signature mark of the glaciers that moved through this area 10-15,000 years ago.

Mighty Oak Trails--The oak tree has a historical presence in this area. Oak trees are known for their many benefits to wildlife, and SWMLC is working to promote the growth of these important trees, including several 100-plus-year-old "mighty" oaks on the property.

Moraine Meadow Trails--A "moraine" (more-ayne) is a large ridge running through the landscape caused by the growing mass of glaciers pushing out from the Great Lakes tens of thousands of years ago. As the glacier grew, it crushed and piled up sand, gravel, and other sediment along the way. When it began to melt and retreat, a ridge or "moraine" is left behind, marking its furthest advance. The "Kalamazoo moraine" runs right through this property, and the Oshtemo region. The meadows created by recent habitat restoration projects on parts of this property offer beautiful views of native grasses and flowers that grow along the moraines.

Oak Barrens Passage--Before Europeans settled Kalamazoo County, the Oshtemo area was home to a large swath of a natural community called "black oak barrens." This type of oak savanna was characterized by scattered black oak trees, with large stands of native grasses and wildflowers in between. Oshtemo had the largest continuous area of black oak barrens in the State of Michigan. This name honors those indigenous natural communities and harkens back to those people who first traveled through them.

• Oak Openings Passage--In 1848, James Fenimore Cooper, better known for his book "The Last of the Mohicans," wrote a book called "The Oak Openings." In traveling through Michigan's pre-settlement landscape, Cooper noted in particular the beauty of our oak savannas or "oak openings," as he called them. This name honors this special eco-system and the "passages" in Cooper's book that described his travels through them.

• Oshtemo Oak Trails--The Oshtemo region is famous in the conservation world for having the largest tract of black oak barrens savanna - a now-rare ecosystem. Much of the area's soils are well-drained and sandy, and combined with regular burning by local Indian tribes, made the perfect habitat for black oaks and other unique botanical life. This name pays homage to the region and the importance of oaks to this area.

• Savanna Ridge Views--Oak savannas represent the natural heritage of this region, and SWMLC is working to restore this particular habitat at this preserve. In addition to being great areas for wildlife, savannas, with their open spaces and scattered trees, offer terrific views, including several ridges and other special topographic features that run throughout this property.

• Whistling Kettle Trails--The rolling hills on the property form deep "bowl"-like landforms that are known as "kettles." Throughout these kettles, and the rest of the property, the songs of birds "whistling" is a prominent feature, and the diversity of bird life on this preserve is one of its greatest assets. The name "Whistling Kettle Trails" is a play on words describing not only the topographical features of the property but the wildlife and human use, as well. 

Wolf Tree Nature Trails--"Wolf Tree" is a term used to refer to old oaks with low-spreading limbs - often with a gnarly and weathered appearance. These trees have low-spreading limbs and round shapes because they used to grow in wide open spaces like savannas and pastures. Wolf Trees are now more often found in overgrown woods amongst many young, fast-growing trees, which eventually crowd-out the wolf trees. Several of these old wolf trees are certainly present on this property, and offer an indicator of a restorable oak savanna ecosystem from a bygone era.

You can vote for your favorite name today here.. On Tuesday, July 5 the SWMLC will announce the top three vote-getters. The winner will be announced Friday, July 15. 

Professor of Psychology at Western Michigan University Richard Malott donated the property to Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy in 2011. The land conservancy says Malott told them that preserving the land as a publicly accessible nature preserve would bestow a value to the community far beyond any financial benefit realized in selling the property for development.

Since the time he donated the property and now SWMLC has been planning trails, mapping natural communities, conducting field trips, and restoring habitat through the work of volunteers, staff, and contractors. 

Turning the property into a public preserve has been a community project. Work on the land was done by SWMLC volunteers, employees of Pfizer Corp. and PNC Bank, the Oshtemo Township and Mattawan Fire Departments, the Michigan Botanical Club, Audubon Society of Kalamazoo, the Great Lakes Adventure Club, and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. Support also came from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and the Hanes Foundation.

The community got a chance to see the property at a grand opening for the property on June 4. A "name the property" contest was announced at the same time. Participants have until June 18 to submit their suggested names. Rules for the contest are found on the SWMLC website.

“We hope that, while at the preserve, nature will inspire people with ideas about a befitting name for this amazing slice of southwest Michigan nature that is here for the enjoyment and enrichment of people,” says SWMLC Executive Director Peter Ter Louw. “The only restriction is that the name must honor Dr. Malott’s request that, beyond describing the natural area, the name should reflect a place where people are a part of nature, not separate from it.” 

Details on the naming contest rules will be provided at the grand opening, and on the SWMLC website at

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy
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