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Bartle/Spaulding: Lake Leelanau WS

A Powerful Tool

by Holly Wren Spaulding, Land Owner

From our 2005 Fall Newsletter 

In 1999, my partner, Robert Bartle, and I were missing good air and our beloved lakeshore while living in one of Europe’s grittier cities. We decided that we wanted to be closer to my family, to return to Leelanau, and to begin after many years of shifting addresses and continents, to call a place home. We didn’t look for too long before we found a lively piece of land above a fertile swamp in the hills near Cedar. The zig-zagging stream reminded me of one I knew well while growing up in the Jordan River Valley; the wilding fruit trees, rotty wetlands, pair of red shouldered hawks, numerous hummocks and nooks amounted to a place where we could feel at home.

From the earliest days we have regarded ourselves as caretakers of this piece of land. We watched the trees mature and old cattle paths grow over, and have always been aware that we were being circled by a complex community of life that assured us of high quality drinking water, shade in summer, firewood in winter, an uninterrupted view of the night sky and an acute sense of the seasons as the food that grew on the land blossomed, bore fruit, and died back in a perfect cycle. All the while the road off which we lived, and the county generally, has endured constant development. Trees are being hauled off, farm fields planted with condos, and ridgelines punctuated with metal pole barns and expansive second homes.

The fact is, Robert and I both share a discomfort with the very concept of property ownership. We are aware of the indigenous history of this peninsula and live with the knowledge that we weren’t the first ones to be on this land, nor will we be the last. It is important to offset our impact on the earth by making choices that have respect for future generations. We have committed this piece of land we call home to a Conservation Easement so that it will remain intact, in perpetuity, for all of the species inhabiting this place.

The need to respect both the ecology, and the quality of life that open space provides is a deeply held value for us both. Working with the Leelanau Conservancy to protect the land where we live has provided us with a powerful tool for putting our ethics into action.

Photo: The permanent preservation of Holly and Robert’s 43 acres near Cedar is part of our Lake Leelanau Watershed Initiative. What happens on their land ultimately affects the health of Lake Leelanau.