Clay Cliffs Project Awarded Up to $2.9M

From our 2012 Spring Newsletter

December 2011–The spectacular Clay Cliffs property, with its 1,700 feet of shoreline on both Lake Michigan and North Lake Leelanau, is two steps closer to becoming a public natural area. Partners in the project, the Leelanau Conservancy and Leland Township, received two pieces of good news recently: 1) the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund awarded up to $2.9 million to the Township for the $6.2 million project; and, 2) the Carls Foundation awarded the Leelanau Conservancy a $1 million challenge grant, a portion of which may be used to help fund the Clay Cliffs project.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve this shoreline while also giving the citizens of Leelanau and everyone who visits the chance to experience one of the most beautiful places on our peninsula,” says Conservancy Director Brian Price. “We still have work to do to raise the $1.8 million needed for the required local match to the Trust Fund grant. But with the Trust Fund committed, and the Carls grant providing a dollar-for-dollar challenge to private donors, we know we can raise the funds necessary to protect this truly unique property and create an incredible natural area. We’re grateful to the Trust Fund Board and to the Carls Foundation for their help. We are also grateful to Rachel Crary, the property owner, for agreeing to donate 25% of the land’s value.”

The 104.5-acre property lies between Lake Michigan and North Lake Leelanau and features sweeping views of both lakes. “This property has it all, natural shoreline on both lakes, rare plant communities growing on the steep clay bluffs, old-growth forest, and spectacular scenery. It is hands-down one of the best places on the peninsula for birding or spring wildflowers,” adds Price.

The high ridges and open meadows afford breathtaking views of North Lake Leelanau. Looking toward Lake Michigan, the sheer clay bluffs that tower above the lake at the forest’s edge provide magnificent views of the Manitous and South Fox Island. Much of the 58-acre mature hardwood forest has not been logged in nearly a century, allowing the trees the rare opportunity to approach their maximum size.

“This is great for Leelanau County and for our township,” says Harry Larkin, Leland Township Supervisor. “Our economy is closely tied to the beauty and recreation this area offers. Having public access to Clay Cliffs for hiking, bird watching and other quiet recreation will add to the mix, offering a unique experience to all who visit it. The community whole-heartedly supports this acquisition, and our Parks and Recreation Committee is really looking forward to working with the Conservancy staff to develop a great management plan for the property.”

The partners applied for a Trust Fund grant in 2010, but the request was declined, in part because the opportunity to purchase the property came so late in the application cycle. They reapplied in April 2011 with the continued cooperation of seller, Rachel Crary. It will be at least a year before the purchase will be complete and the public can be welcomed onto to the land. Initial plans call for a small parking area, loop trails, and an observation platform overlooking the Manitou Passage. Leland Township will own the land; the Leelanau Conservancy will manage it.

The good news of the Trust Fund grant came on December 7th.. A few weeks earlier, the Carls Foundation awarded a challenge grant to support natural land protection in high-priority areas of the Leelanau Peninsula. The grant will support a variety of projects under development by the Conservancy, one of which is the acquisition of the Clay Cliffs property.

“If we can raise $250,000 toward the Carls Challenge in each of the next four years, we can claim an additional $250,000 each year in matching funds for critical land protection projects,” says Anne Shoup, the Conservancy’s Director of Charitable Giving. “In this first year, we hope the Carls Challenge will spur donations to the Clay Cliffs project. We are excited and grateful for this timely opportunity for donors to double the impact of their gifts.”

The Conservancy has been in contact with the Crary family since 1995 about protecting the land. Sixteen years ago, the late Doug Crary told 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, with a clear view of his land across the lake, he 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.”

To make a gift to the project, please contact Anne Shoup (231-256-9665) or visit the Conservancy’s secure website at

About the Carls Foundation

Established in 1961, the William and Marie Carls Foundation was utilized by Bill and Marie Carls to implement their charitable activities. Mr. Carls felt privileged and proud to be an American citizen, and considered his funding of the Foundation as a way to return benefits to his community and country, and as an expression of his appreciation for the great opportunities that America afforded him. The Carls Foundation has supported specific conservation projects throughout Michigan, including projects of the Leelanau Conservancy and Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

About the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) has been in place since 1976. It provides financial assistance to local governments and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation, or because of its environmental importance or scenic beauty. The Trust Fund also assists in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation. The MNRTF is supported by annual revenues from the development of State-owned mineral resources, largely oil and gas. The Leelanau Conservancy has partnered with Elmwood, Bingham, and Leland Township to acquire locally important natural lands and parkland, and has assisted the state in expanding Leelanau State Park and state forest holdings in the Cedar River area.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE-all donations made by December 31, 2012 will be matched by an anonymous donor! (up to $200,000)


Leelanau Enterprise Praises Clay Cliffs Project

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