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Berkshire-Sprouse: Glen Lake Area

Juliet Sprouse Preserves 18 Acres in Sensitive Hatlem Creek Watershed With Conservation Easement

From our 2011 Summer Newsletter

One of the many things that gives Leelanau County its unique charm is the way that people make a living here, and how our landscapes figure into their livelihoods. Take Juliet Berkshire Sprouse, whose llama and alpaca ranch doubles as a wedding site. Her Snow Moon Ranch sits on top of the world overlooking Glen Lake and features one of the most spectacular views on the peninsula. She also owns a large chunk of wetlands in the Hatlem Creek watershed that are critical to the health of Glen Lake.

This winter Juliet took steps to preserve a portion of her beautiful and ecologically significant land and hopes to do more in the future. She sold a conservation easement on 18 of her 100 acres that will forever protect sensitive wetlands along 1,400 feet of Hatlem Creek. Michigan monkey flower is present here; the federally endangered plant requires wet, mucky areas where cool water flows and Juliet’s land is just the ticket. The land which is located along Plowman Road also backs up to other protected lands owned by Robert MacKenzie, thereby creating a 38-acre block of preserved wetlands.

“This is incredibly important habitat and protecting Hatlem Creek means we are also protecting the health of Glen Lake,” says Yarrow Wolfe, Land Protection Specialist. “Hatlem Creek is the only major tributary feeding into Glen Lake, and enters on its south shore. It is a significant source of fresh water and has long been a high priority area for the Leelanau Conservancy. We are grateful to Juliet for her willingness to work with us and for contributing some of the value in a bargain sale of the conservation easement.”

Snow Moon Ranch sits among the treetops and as a result, hawks and eagles, song birds and swallows swoop and flit near a wooden arch or the split rail fence where couples pose for photos or recite their vows. In the distance are Alligator Hill, the Dune Climb and azure blue Glen Lake. “The fun thing about hosting weddings up here is meeting all the people who come from all over the country, who have never been to Leelanau,” says Juliet. “It’s fun to see how excited they are about it and to be able to share it.” 
Juliet has been talking to the Conservancy for a number of years about protecting her land. “It’s a big commitment and there were lots of variables in the decision making process,” she says. “In the end it’s a good thing. We retained a foot print that has value. For me this land is an important investment and I had to consider that. This is a good starting place.”

Juliet first saw the land one summer evening when she was up north visiting during a college break. “A friend brought me up here to watch a sunset and I was just blown away,” she says. Years later, when she and her then-husband were looking for property, the very same piece of land was available.

“I had no idea at the time that some day I would be looking for property in the very same place,” she says. “It’s funny how life takes you around.” She raised two children here who are now grown and live on the West Coast, but come home every chance they can.

In addition to keeping the grounds tended for weddings Juliet cares for a herd of 15 gentle llamas and 15 alpacas. At one time the ranch was home to a great number of llamas, alpacas and Tibetan yak. She chose the name Snow Moon ranch after, she says, “We had one of those spectacular nights where the moon came up and seemed to sit right here in our front yard on top of the snow. I had never seen anything like it. “

In July Juliet hosted our Leelanau Conservancy Sustainers at their annual summer gathering. As for her conservation easement, Juliet says, “I hope it encourages other people to think about trying to keep as much of this area the way it was when we saw it for the first time. We are so blessed to live in a place like this.”