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DeYoung Natural Area

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  • DeYoung Natural Area on Cedar Lake  staff photo
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  • DeYoung house

DeYoung Natural Area at a Glance

Activities: bench, birding, easy, flat terrain, fishing, fishing platform, guided tours, hiking, historic structures, hunting by permit only, lake frontage, stream(s), viewing platform or overlook, wildflowers

Acreage: 145

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The Leelanau Conservancy purchased this historic farmstead with nearly a mile of frontage on Cedar Lake in May, 2006.

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Click Here to view a 36-second video tour of the DeYoung Natural Area!

Click Here to view an Overview of DeYoung’s History

The 145-acre Louis DeYoung farm is just minutes from Traverse City, with frontage on both sides of Cherry Bend Road. The TART trail runs through a portion of the land on the lake side.  The Conservancy hopes this property will become a place where the public can come to recreate, enjoy nature and learn about community supported agriculture. The Edible Trails Project has planted a food forest along the section of the TART Trail that runs through DeYoung, harking back to the farm history of the property. There is a Universal Access (UA) trail that winds through mature cedars near the shore of Cedar Lake. It leads down to a UA fishing and wildlife observation pier on the lake.

The 145 acres 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 has 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. Portions of the upland are currently being farmed by a neighbor.

The land became available when Louis DeYoung, Sr. passed away last year at the age of 104. His son, Ted, says it was his father’s dream to see the land forever preserved. They began exploring options with the Conservancy late in 2003.

“This is a tremendous project that will touch the lives of people from both Leelanau and Grand Traverse County,” said Heiman. “Thousands of people bike through this area now. We are in the process of formulating plans and working with other interested groups.”

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


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