DeYoung Natural Area
The 145-acre DeYoung Natural Area combines an historic farmstead with a mile of shoreline on Cedar Lake and was preserved in partnership with Elmwood Township. The farmstead dates back to 1870 and serves as a gateway to the county’s agricultural corridor. Recreation opportunities abound at this natural area, named for Louis DeYoung, an innovative farmer who died at 104 and dreamed of protecting his land. The TART trail bisects the land and a Universal Access trail leads to a lakeside fishing and viewing platform. Upland trails wind past heritage-variety apple trees and over a small stream, and offer sweeping views of the farm and Cedar Lake.
Just minutes from Traverse City, the property features frontage on both sides of Cherry Bend Road and sits in the middle of a rapidly developing residential area. “The DeYoung family turned away many offers from developers and sacrificed financially by offering this property to the Conservancy because they care tremendously about seeing it remain as it is today,” said Matt Heiman, Director of Land Programs with the Leelanau Conservancy who worked with the family. “Under some scenarios, the property could have supported as many as 100 homes.” From the property’s highest vantage points there are views of west and east Grand Traverse Bay.
The project is one of the largest the Conservancy has taken on. “Cedar Lake has the greatest amount of shoreline protected of any inland lake in the County,” said Heiman. Much of the shore contains wetlands critical to the health of Cedar Lake, he adds.
The land became available when Louis DeYoung, Sr. passed away at the age of 104. His son, Ted, said it was his father’s dream to see the land forever preserved. They began exploring options with the Conservancy late in 2003.
The farm has a rich agricultural history. (Learn more about a partnership with EMU’s Graduate School in Historic Preservation and the work to document the history of DeYoung by clicking on some of the links below.)
The aging mustard colored farmhouse along Cherrybend Road is where Louis and his wife, Esther, raised two children and, early on, tended a dairy cattle herd. After morning milking, Louis herded the cows to pasture, sometimes leading them over railroad tracks to graze on the shores of Cedar Lake. Louis drove his milk into Maxbauer’s Creamery on Traverse City’s West Front in a one-seat Ford pickup. The DeYoungs weathered the Depression, nearly losing their farm. Louis was the first in the area to bring electricity into their home. He rigged up a car generator and a couple of 6-volt light bulbs and hooked it all up to a water wheel on a stream that ran beneath his workshop.
After the Depression, the DeYoungs were also the first of their neighbors to give up farming with horses for tractors. Soon after they gambled on cherries, planting 8 acres, and enjoyed an extended period of profitability—one that put both his children through college. Today, Ted is a retired aerospace engineer now living in California and daughter Pat is a retired physician living in Oregon. At the time of Louis’ death, they co-owned the farm with their father.
Plants at DeYoung
Click below to see a list of High Quality Plant Species at DeYoung Natural Area along with a summary and description of the Floristic Quality Assessment outlining all plant species found on the property: DeYoung FQA and Summary
Universal Access trail (.5 mile) leads to Cedar Lake fishing/viewing pier
Upland trail system (1.5 miles) around historic farmstead
Forested stream valley lush with horsetail, cedar swamp
Woodpeckers, nesting wood warbler, green heron
Historic farmstead offers some occasional learning opportunities
The Edible Trails Project has planted a food forest along the section of the TART Trail that runs through the lakeside portion of DeYoung, harking back to the farm history of the property.
- DeYoung Natural Area Grows by 48 Acres–Dec. 2015
- Unique Friendship Leads to Significant Gift to Help Fund DeYoung Purchase: Read about Andy Kiselius (from Spring 2009 Newsletter)
- October 2013: Healing Tree Farm at DeYoung
- Sept. 2013: Better Together: EMU and Conservancy Partner to Save Historic Farm
- Request for Proposals: DeYoung Farm and Building Use
- EMU Students Get Involved With Restoration of DeYoung Waterwheel
- EMU Grad Students Help to Preserve DeYoung Farmhouse
- Video: Learn about EMU’s Historic Preservation Program
- Interested in learning more about our hikes, workbees and other events? Click here!
- Two Families Continue the Tradition of Farming at DeYoung
- New Trail at DeYoung Natural Area