Spectacular Clay Cliffs Property Near Leland Proposed as Township Park
From our 2010 Summer Newsletter
Fifteen years ago, the late Doug Crary told Conservancy Director Brian Price that one of the things he loved most was to drive over to what was then known as Cherry Pickers’ Park on North Lake Leelanau. From there he had a clear view of his land across the lake and would watch the sun go down. “He loved to see that big expanse of land and how after dark there would be no lights,” says Brian. “He talked about how good that made him feel, how much he enjoyed his land, and that he wanted to see it protected one day.”
That day has come. Doug passed away a few years ago in his nineties, and now his only living child, Rachel, is seeing her father’s wishes through.
Leland Township officials agreed in June to move forward on applying to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to purchase a spectacular piece of property two miles north of the village. The Township Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission held a special meeting on June 23 to discuss what steps needed to be taken to apply to the Trust Fund with the assistance of the Leelanau Conservancy.
The 104.5-acre parcel of interest is sandwiched between Lake Leelanau and Lake Michigan. It features sweeping views of both lakes, and includes about 2,000 feet of frontage on each lake. “In addition to the natural shoreline on two lakes, it is one of the most gorgeous and prolific wildflower sites in Leelanau County,” says Price. Tom Sleder, who as Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission toured the property, commented at the special meeting that the size of the trees and luscious foliage “make this place as close to a rain forest as you are likely to find in the Midwest.”
Under the Trust Fund rules only units of government are eligible to apply for grants. “I spoke with (Conservancy Executive Director) Brian Price two years ago about this parcel because it is a spectacular piece of property,” said Harry Larkin, Township Supervisor.
The Conservancy has been in contact with the Crary family over the years about the land and how it might be pro tected one day. A recent reappraisal of the property pegs its value at $5.8 million. The Crary family will donate 25 percent of the purchase price, providing the local match required for Trust Fund projects. “There will never be a better time to make an application to acquire such a large and valuable coastal property,” says Price. He noted that recent leasing for oil and gas exploration on state lands produced a record increase in funding available in 2010 for the Trust Fund. He added that “this is exactly the type of spectacular natural land that the Trust Fund has helped local governments preserve in its 30-plus-year history.”
In order to move forward, the Township will work closely with Conservancy staff to complete the application, including a site plan and proposed uses for the property, and will hold a public hearing on its amended five-year Recreation Plan. “Right now, we are only interested in passive recreational uses such as hiking trails and cross-country skiing,” noted Larkin, “and that is consistent with the property’s natural attributes and the wishes of the Crary family as well.” The application deadline is August 3.
The Leelanau Conservancy has offered assistance in drafting the application, has agreed to provide up to $290,000 (5%) as additional local match, and to consider managing the property for the Township if both entities approve a management agreement. If approved this arrangement would be similar to the Conservancy’s agreement with Elmwood Township on the DeYoung Natural Area Lakefront parcel.
Although some property tax revenue would be lost, Larkin said, “The benefits outweigh the losses. This is our one and only shot at this property. I think we should take it.”
This property is the largest and most diverse remaining privately owned coastal property on the mainland of Leelanau County. High ridges offer views of Lake Leelanau and the Lake Michigan frontage is made up of sheer, clay bluffs that provide a magnificent view of the Manitou Passage. Cleared hayfields, open meadows and a northern hardwood forest that borders the clay cliffs makes up the interior. Steep slopes, hidden valleys and a delicate wetland ecosystem provide a diverse habitat for wildlife, including a pair of nesting eagles. All in all, this is a GREAT opportunity to protect one of Leelanau’s last remaining Jewels.