Wedding and Event Center, Nature Michigan Retreat, Opening in Maple City

Bryan and Emma Cloninger have found the intersection of Northern Michigan’s natural beauty, romance, ardor and tradition. They simply call it Nature. It’s 78 acres of hardwoods, glades, and valleys located seven miles from Glen Arbor and, “zero miles from sheer beauty,” as they like to say. Currently, the site is outfitted with a large event center, called the Great Nest, as well as additional natural areas with bonfire pits, trails, a pond and a grassy area for a large supplemental event tent. As they develop the property, there will also be glamping tents (luxury camping, glamour meets camping), clustered in a variety of settings. Each of these unique glamping tents, called nests, will have acres of rolling forested hardwoods to themselves.

The Great Nest is exceptionally well designed for events, including weddings, anniversaries, business retreats or family reunions, with all the amenities needed for a grand affair, but imbued with an awareness of nature and Leelanau county. Inside, one can have a sit-down dinner with up to 168 people and still have enough room to boogie down on the dance floor. The facility boasts a massage and well-being room in addition to a VIP powder room, where a bridal party might spend time getting ready. There are also lobby areas, multiple bar areas, catering kitchen and access to basement storage, locker rooms with showers and a recreational lounge area on a mezzanine overlooking the whole space.

Ceilings are more than 30 feet tall. Wood for the floor and trim came from downed Ash trees on the property, milled locally and logged after an August 2015 storm, with winds of 80 to 100 miles per hour, downed thousands of trees in the area. As an experienced cinematographer, Bryan was adamant the space be flooded with natural light, so windows surround the event area with views into the valley, the glade, and all the gardens.

For larger events, one can put up a tent in a nearby glade, expanding the seating to 300. The Great Nest and the glade are connected by an outside terrace and banked by the sandy shore of the pond.

This year, Bryan and Emma will show off just a few of the glamping tents as examples, expanding to more than 30 next year. Tents have a wood floor and include full-size furniture in a custom built, canvas wall cabin with king size beds or two queen size beds. Each glamping tent will have its own unique style and be situated on the property to embrace its identity. For example, one tent will be called Deep Nest, placed in the quiet of the hardwood forests of Nature. Its appointments may include a John Muir book or poetry from Gary Snyder, the poet laureate of Deep Ecology. Another example, Cozy Nest leans toward a Scandinavian look, with hygge style in mind.

The site is thoughtfully planned for the long term. Bryan collected top eco-designers to build Nature as a living system that would not only be net-zero on its carbon footprint but be net-positive.

“That’s my favorite part about this project,” says Bryan. “That we were able to create living systems, an active landscape. That’s the heart of our vision and I’m proud we were able to maintain that.” If someone wants to estimate the carbon footprint of their event, they can calculate that, and then show how they can offset the event all the way to positive with Nature’s help in growing carbon-capturing plants. Couples who get married on the property will also have a tree planted in their name. They can return to celebrate their anniversaries and visit their tree using the map that will always show the couples names.

Bryan and Emma hope that Nature supports families as they develop traditions around retreats or adventures in Northern Michigan, whether those adventures start with a celebration, a vacation, or a business event.

Nature is taking reservations for events and weddings for the 2018 season. Visit www.naturemichigan.com.