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Goss: Cedar Lake

Two New Projects on Cedar Lake Protect 1,690 Feet of Shoreline – Now 1/3 of the Lakeshore Has Been Forever Preserved!

From our 2010 Spring Newsletter

Great news for Cedar Lake! Two neighboring landowners have together protected 46.1 acres and 1,690 feet of natural, pristine shoreline through two separate conservation agreements on private land.* These latest two efforts cap two decades of outstanding land protection work on Cedar Lake; to date we have preserved an amazing one third of the lake’s shoreline! This is a huge accomplishment on a lake that is located so close to a population center such as Traverse City.

We couldn’t have done it without spirited, caring people like our latest project landowners; Ed and Mildred Goss along with another who wishes to remain anonymous. Their love for their land and for Cedar Lake is inspiring.

Ed and Mildred Goss decided it was the right time to protect their beloved family land, which is also located directly across Cedar Lake from the DeYoung Natural Area. In fact it was Louis DeYoung, a good friend of Ed’s, who let him know that “Doc Durfee’s place” across the lake was on the market. Durfee had sold his farmstead to Dr. Edwin Thirlby before he passed away, but had made a provision for his widow to have a life lease on the home. At the time, Ed was working at the Michigan State Police Post as an officer. It was 1955.

According to an article written by John Tune of the Leelanau Enterprise, Thirlby could not re-sell to anyone unless Mrs. Durfee approved. She had already rejected some 40 buyers. (Tune’s fascinating interview with Ed that details his life story and his police career, can be found on our website)

Goss went to Frankfort to meet with Mrs. Durfee. After determining that he met her criteria (was a religious man who had served his country wounded overseas) she went to the extreme of hiring a private investigator to confirm her good impressions of Ed. He passed the test and bought the land, which at the time he thought had all 33 acres overlooking a small bit of water frontage on West Bay. It was not until he first walked to what he thought was the back of the land that he discovered a gated trail leading through a thick forest down a hill. At the end of the trail lay a pristine inland lake with white cedars lining the shoreline as far as the eye could see. Only then did he learn that his 33 acres also included 1,336 feet of undeveloped shoreline on Cedar Lake.

Ed’s distinguished career in law enforcement took him and his family to other locales for a while, but Cedar Lake has always been home. “I was meant to have this place if you believe in miracles” he says. “It’s just a really special place.” His five children grew up playing in the woods and fishing on the lake and they were even married here. Natural treasures abound on the property from rare plants and creatures such as bobcat, river otter and grey fox that inhabit the largely untouched forest, shoreline and forested ridge overlooking the lake. The property contains high quality examples of mesic northern forest community, including very large specimens of hemlock, yellow birch, northern white cedar, red oak and white pine. High quality examples of rich conifer swamp and emergent marsh wetland communities are also present. The forested ridgeline offers a scenic panorama visible from our DeYoung Natural Area as well as Cherrybend Road. The Conservancy was able to utilize grant funds from our West Grand Traverse Bay Protection Project to purchase a portion of the conservation easement with the remaining value being a tax deductible gift to the Conservancy. Ed and Mildred’s son Shawn has also raised his children with a respect and admiration for the property’s natural wonders. He is steadfastly committed to keeping his family connected to the property and carrying on Ed’s original promise to Mrs. Durfee to “not desecrate the land.”

“I have to say that walking the Goss property reminds me of why I love to work in this field,” says Matt Heiman, Director of Land Protection who conferred with Ed, 85, over the last few years to complete the project. “Ed has been approached by several developers anxious about the potential to create dozens more ridgeline and lakefront homes on his land (a large subdivision lies adjacent to the south). This land is religious to him and his family. His unwavering determination to keep the land from being spoiled has been very inspiring.”

Ed and Mildred’s neighbor to the north has also developed a deep connection with his land. The anonymous landowner’s 350 feet of shoreline and 33 acres was a piece of land he purchased back in 1984. “Even though you are so close to Traverse City, it feels like you are a million miles away, out in the boonies,” says the landowner. He has used the land for walking, cross-country skiing, and kept a ski boat and small dock on the shore. He doesn’t live on the land but always knew he wanted to permanently protect it. After learning more about recent conservation agreement tax incentives he determined it was a good time for the donation of a conservation easement, which protects significant ridgeline views seen from the lake. The terms will permit two agricultural areas to be planted in the future as well as maintain and improve the existing home.

The landowner reflected that “So much of Traverse City has gotten more and more developed; when I bought my land there was very little going on between Cedar Lake and Crain Hill Road,” he says. “I just never wanted to see it chopped in little pieces and the time has come to make sure that doesn’t happen”.

*Conservation Agreements are legal agreements between the Leelanau Conservancy and private landowners (typically) that restrict certain property rights in order to protect specific conservation values. Land protected by conservation agreements remains private and does not offer public access.