155-acre riverfront property donated to Land Conservancy of West Michigan for public exploration
An anonymous donor has given their family property to the Land Conservancy to create a public nature preserve in Newaygo County
An anonymous family has generously donated 155 acres of natural land along the glittering waters of the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River to the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.
The land trust closed on the property in mid-April and in the coming months will transform it into a nature preserve open to public exploration, establishing a parking lot, trails and wayfinding signage.
“We are so grateful to the family for choosing to donate their property so that we all may enjoy its resplendent beauty,” said Land Conservancy Executive Director Kim Karn. “They have created a profound legacy with their support for natural lands conservation.”
The land donation includes an 8-acre parcel with a house and garage that the Land Conservancy will protect with a conservation easement and sell to endow the ongoing care and maintenance of the new nature preserve.
Named Upriver Nature Preserve, the property will be the Land Conservancy’s second nature preserve in Newaygo County and its first on the shores of a tributary to the Pere Marquette River.
The preserve features 5,321 feet of the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River. The Land Conservancy has helped protect over 4,400 acres of land in the Pere Marquette River watershed by collaborating with private landowners to establish conservation easements on their properties. This preserve will be the first Land Conservancy property that offers public access to Michigan’s only undammed river, renowned for its water quality and trout-fishing opportunities.
“For the first time, visitors will be able to visit a Land Conservancy nature preserve on the magnificent Little South Branch and experience one of our region’s most beautiful river systems,” Karn said.
The property also includes a rare sand prairie. With restoration efforts led by Land Conservancy staff and volunteers, the land could provide much-needed habitat for the endangered Karner blue butterfly and several native species of plants, insects and birds that depend on these disappearing ecosystems.
“We are excited to add a new publicly accessible preserve to the suite of protected lands in the Big Forests & Wild Rivers focal region identified in our Strategic Conservation Plan,” said Conservation Director Justin Heslinga. “Under our management, the landscape will continue to support a diverse community of life, including bobcats, foxes, and more.”
The Land Conservancy will open the preserve to the public later this year, with details to be released on the Land Conservancy’s website. Volunteers who would like to help prepare the property for public enjoyment can get a sneak peek in July. The Land Conservancy is hosting a trail-building workday on the new preserve on Saturday, July 9, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Details for that event can be found at naturenearby.org/events.