March 2011–Lovers of the Lake Leelanau Narrows will be happy to know that the Leelanau Conservancy has officially taken ownership of an embattled 2.25 acres and 430 feet along the eastern shoreline. Once the center of controversy, this land is now protected and will continue to preserve the water quality and scenic value of Lake Leelanau.
For the past five years, the Lake Leelanau Lake Association had sought to prevent docks from being built along this fragile shoreline. A DEQ approved plan would have allowed a 250-foot broadside dock with 22 boat slips protruding into the narrow channel. Plans for development were dashed in part by the souring real estate market. Also, the property changed hands in 2009 and new owners, Egan McGlynn and Tim Cypher, wished to see the land remain natural. After months of negotiations and fundraising by the Lake Leelanau Lake Association and the Leelanau Conservancy, McGlynn and Cypher sold the land to the Conservancy. The Lake Association took on the role as partial funder and holder of a conservation easement. It took until early December to close on the project.
The land, which has been the subject of paintings and countless photographs taken from the M-204 bridge in Lake Leelanau, is adjacent to already protected land known as the Conservancy’s Leugers Preserve at the Narrows. It is the third key parcel along the shore to be protected in a 10-year period. A total of 68 acres along the Narrows and 2,875 feet or about a half-mile of frontage now make up this beautiful Natural Area.
This latest expanse of scenic shoreline is treasured by thousands of boaters who annually traverse the Narrows. Wetlands here also provide fish nesting habitat and a home to a great diversity of wildlife.
“The Narrows have long been a priority for the Conservancy,” says Matt Heiman, Director of Land Protection. “Many uses for the Narrows have been proposed over the years that have threatened its ecological integrity. Dredge spoils were dumped into wetlands in the 80s, marinas were proposed in the late 90s and again in the last few years. A couple of years ago Consumer’s Power was ready to put a new power line across the Narrows which would have mowed down a swath of vegetation 100 feet wide but we were able to convince them to move it. This project is the culmination of efforts by local property owners, the Conservancy, the Lake Association, and other willing partners to acknowledge just how important a healthy and intact Narrows wetland complex is to the whole community.”
With the help of generous members, the Conservancy successfully raised $150,000 toward the $250,000 purchase price. The Lake Association pledged to raise the balance of $100,000. John Fitzpatrick, past president of the Lake Association and Campaign Chairman for fundraising, says that $65,000 in cash and pledges has been raised to-date, with another $35,000 needed to achieve their goal. He expects more donations in response to a recent mailing to association members and property owners along the lake.
“The idea that the entire shoreline has been protected, with these properties put together, is pretty incredible,” says Fitzpatrick. “It’s been a good and fair outcome for everyone concerned and cements our relationship with the Conservancy, which has always been a strong one. Our members are thrilled. Their response upon hearing the news has been surprise, relief and joy.”