Partners in Preservation: Elmwood Township and Leelanau Conservancy Officially Co-Owners of DeYoung Natural Area on Cedar Lake

From our 2010 Spring Newsletter

February 1, 2010–Last week Elmwood Township became the official owner of the lakefront portion of the DeYoung Natural Area on Cedar Lake. At the same time the Leelanau Conservancy was able to pay off a million dollar loan it had carried for two years. The Conservancy had bought the property from the estate of Louis DeYoung, holding it for transfer to the township once a grant could be secured by the township from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. In the meantime, the Conservancy and Township were able to open the property for public use, creating trails and building a fishing pier.

“Elmwood Township very much appreciates the cooperation and foresight of the Leelanau Conservancy and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, and the generosity of the DeYoung family, who collectively made this acquisition possible,” says Elmwood Township Supervisor Jack Kelly. The Township will now own 60.5 acres of the 145-acre historic farmstead located just minutes from Traverse City, which include the entire 4,500 feet of shoreline along Cedar Lake. The Conservancy maintains ownership of the remaining 84 acres, mostly west of Cherry Bend Road. All of the land will be managed by the Conservancy under a management plan that has been approved by township officials.

The Leelanau Conservancy purchased the land May, 2006, taking out a substantial loan to help buy the $1.81 million property. The project is one of the largest the Conservancy has taken on.

“We dreamed of preserving what we view as the gateway to Leelanau’s agricultural heritage practically since the day we opened our doors,” says Matt Heiman, the Conservancy’s Director of Land Protection. “But it was a lot to take on from a financial perspective. We’re grateful to all of our donors who helped and to the township for partnering with us to apply for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to help pay for the project.” (The Trust Fund only grants money to units of government.)
Funds were awarded to Elmwood Township to the tune of $910,200 nearly two years ago but the Conservancy and the Township had to clear a number of hurdles before the check could be released from the state. They included resolving questions of mineral rights and getting a township-approved management plan in place. Last week, all the pieces were finally in place to close the deal. “It’s a relief for the Conservancy to be able to pay off this loan and also to know that without question this area has forever been protected for future generations,” says Heiman. “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.

“We’re especially excited to be partnering with the Leelanau Conservancy’s staff and its extensive educational, ecological, and recreational expertise that they bring to the table,” adds Kelly. “We are confident that all who visit DeYoung in the future will be pleased with the passive recreation implementation plans that are contained within the DeYoung Natural Area Management Plan that both the Elmwood Township Board and the Leelanau Conservancy approved last year.

Seen by many as an oasis in a rapidly developing area and the beginning of Leelanau’s agricultural landscape, the property is bisected by the TART Leelanau Trail on the lake side portion of the land. There is a quarter-mile trail that winds through mature cedars near the shores of Cedar Lake. It leads down to a fishing and wildlife observation pier on the lake. Plans for trails on the upland are in the works when funds to create them can be raised.
The land became available when Louis DeYoung, Sr. passed away in 2006 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. The farm has a rich agricultural history.

“The DeYoung Natural Area represents another recreational “jewel” that will be enjoyed by both present and future generations of Elmwood Township, Leelanau County, and Grand Traverse Region residents and their guests, and it nicely complements existing township recreational resources located at Cherry Bend Community Park and the new Greilickville Harbor Park that is under construction adjacent to the township’s marina,” concludes Kelly. “If people have not yet experienced the wonder of this very special property, nor comprehend its close proximity to TART, which runs right through it, they’re definitely in for a pleasant surprise”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *