Little Traverse Conservancy reports 2013 highlights throughout its five-county outdoors service area in Northern Michigan, based in Harbor Springs.

In 2013, the non-profit land trust passed a milestone, surpassing 50,000 acres of Northern Michigan land protection in its 41 years of existence. This amounts to 78 square miles, which represents about 1.8% of the land in the organization’s service area of roughly 4,400 square miles. The protected lands include more than 130 miles of lake, river, or stream shoreline.

“The volume of land protection is one way to measure the success of a land trust,” said Executive Director Tom Bailey. “So is the number of members who support it, and the amount of money that is raised each year or for a particular project. Yet protecting land in its natural state and making it available for public use and enjoyment comes with many other intangibles that can’t be statistically measured.”

For example, the Conservancy offers year-round education outings and community field trips. In 2013, more than 3,700 students participated in a Conservancy-led nature outing and 551 people participated in seasonal community field trips led by staff and volunteers. Almost all of these programs are offered at no charge, and funds are available to help with bus transportation costs for classrooms.

The Conservancy also reports that 15 miles of new trail were added to their nature preserve trail systems. All told, the organization manages and maintains 90 miles of trails with the help of hundreds of volunteers.

Some of the organization’s 2013 land protection and stewardship highlights included the

– In Charlevoix County, 38 acres were purchased and added to two nature preserves that lie along Horton Creek. Several work days were held at numerous preserves with new trails created at the Barney’s Lake Preserve on Beaver Island as well as the Taylor-
Horton Creek Preserve, Wisser-Saworski Preserve, and Darnton Family Preserve.

– In Cheboygan County, the Conservancy assisted the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) in protecting 120 acres with 330 feet of frontage on the Pigeon River. LTC also collaborated with the Burt Lake Trail group to coordinate plan and complete parking and a rerouted trail that accommodates the new Burt Lake Trail.

– A 13-acre nature preserve in Emmet County, now known as the Hankins Glen Preserve, was donated by Robert and Mary Coykendall. The preserve includes a small creek that is a tributary to the Bear River, a major tributary to Little Traverse Bay.

– A 200-acre addition to the Aldo Leopold Preserve on Marquette Island, Mackinac County, was purchased with a grant from the J.A. Woollam Foundation. The addition provides much desired trail access and brings the preserve size to 1,683 acres and 3.8 miles of Lake Huron frontage.

– Little Traverse Conservancy assisted the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with acquiring a 540-acre parcel in Chippewa County. The parcel includes 1,400 feet of frontage on Ziegler Lake and is now part of state forest holdings just west of Detour Village.

More than ever, the Conservancy is engaging volunteers to help with their work. In 2013 nearly 550 volunteers assisted the organization with a variety of tasks ranging from office mailings to trail monitors. More than 1,500 volunteer hours were donated to LTC in 2013. Based on the national volunteer value estimation of $22.14/hour, the value of these hours is $33,210.

By the end of 2013, more than 3,200 people had downloaded the Conservancy’s free nature preserve smart phone app. The app provides interactive maps and updated information about LTC’s most user-friendly nature preserves and is an excellent way for residents and visitors to the region to quickly get information about preserves and trails.