Celebrating a Legacy of Protected Land

Celebrating a Legacy of Protected Land

In 1976, two momentous things happened. Four volunteers started the organization that would become the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, and Paul Tomandl bought a scenic property just north of Hart. Nearly 50 years later, these paths would cross. 

Paul was working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and he had been dispatched to Oceana County after a big snowstorm to help clear the roads. He stopped in the Pink Elephant Diner and saw a real-estate advertisement for 40 acres of land. He had been interested in finding a spot to hunt and camp, so he decided to check it out. He visited the property, then covered in a deep blanket of snow, and decided to purchase it. 

“I didn’t even know what it looked like,” Paul said. But even covered in snow, it was beautiful. He was charmed by the signs of wildlife and the scenic Dumaw Creek, which runs through the property.  

Paul used the land for hunting, camping, and outdoor recreation. He hunted deer, grouse, and woodcock every year and occasionally fished in the creek. He planted thousands of trees and adored the immense variety of plants and wildflowers. 

“I grew to love it,” Paul said.  

In the ‘90s, Paul married his wife, Dee. She grew to love the property as well. They frequently hosted friends, who camped with trailers and tents on the property.  

A neighbor later listed 20 acres for sale, and Paul purchased the land, extending the reach of the property south to include 700 feet of the Pentwater River. 

In preparing his estate plans, Paul let his attorney know that his hopes for the property were to keep it protected. The attorney gave him some options for how this could be done. Paul was familiar with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, and when he reached out, the organizations’ staff were thrilled with the opportunity. 

“Every time I would go up there, I’d come back with such a peaceful feeling.” Paul said. “I wanted to make that available so other people could experience that as well.” 

In 2023, Paul and Dee donated the property, along with an endowment to fund the preserve’s care into the future, to the Land Conservancy so that it could become a publicly accessible nature preserve. Land Conservancy volunteers helped build a new trail system, and the preserve opened to public use in December 2023. 

“It’s my legacy,” Paul said. 

The Land Conservancy of West Michigan is grateful to Paul for his generous donation, which ensures this beautiful landscape will be permanently protected and that future generations will be able to experience its rejuvenating effects. 

Dumaw Woodland Nature Preserve currently features a .4-mile trail loop which winds along the cedar-shaded shores of Dumaw Creek. In 2024, the Land Conservancy will build boardwalks, a creek crossing, and another .6 miles of trail through the preserve’s forested uplands. 

If you would like to show your support for Dumaw Woodland Nature Preserve and help fund the establishment of preserve amenities such as boardwalks, the creek crossing, and parking lot, you can make a donation on our website at naturenearby.org/dumaw-woodland.

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