Message From Executive Director Tom Nelson
Published in our 2017 Annual Report
“We will not fight to save what we do not love.”
—Scientist and Author Stephen Jay Gould
When people ask me about the successes of the Leelanau Conservancy, the conversation quickly turns to the power of love. This organization has been blessed with visionary founders and passionate leaders, committed staff and board members, and dedicated volunteers. But, there’s a sobering truth that carries with it a deep sense of humility—it is your love of Leelanau that’s the reason the Conservancy can keep on doing what it does. Because of you, families can continue to celebrate together that Leelanau’s waters are still pristine, its forests are still green, and its farms are still resplendent at harvest time.
But what of the times to come? Will the next generation love Leelanau as much as we do? Where will Leelanau’s supporters and defenders of the future come from? As you might expect, your Conservancy is working on it.
The good news is that there’s plenty of evidence young people still yearn to experience, appreciate and enjoy places that continue to hold their beauty and ecological integrity. At the same time, we’re learning that the coming generations often want to experience nature differently.
Fortunately for us, we don’t have to go very far to hear what younger people care about. Five members of our staff—Sara, Emily, Becky, Claire and Chase—are in their 20s and 30s. They and their peers are helping us find the answers. Active outdoor recreational opportunities are very meaningful to them. Often, they enjoy these experiences in groups, because it connects them with each other and their love of the natural world. How fortunate that we possess a profound understanding of how our peninsula’s lands and waters connect us to each other and nourish us.
For more than a year, the Conservancy’s staff and board have been examining our best opportunities to offer the kind of active outdoor experience that will attract the conservation leaders of tomorrow. We are thrilled to announce we will offer the first public mountain bike trail in Leelanau County at our Palmer Woods Forest Reserve. Palmer Woods is already a popular Leelanau destination for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and we anticipate the work on mountain bike trails to commence later this year.
When complete, sustainable mountain bike trails will be separate from hiking and ski trails. If all goes as planned, by the end of 2019, Palmer Woods will include 6.8 miles of hiking and groomed cross-country ski trails and 5.5 miles of mountain bike trails. By 2021, we expect Palmer Woods to have over nine miles of hiking and skiing trails and over 15 miles of mountain biking trails.
Research shows spending time outdoors on trails improves people’s quality of life, and young families want to live in places with family-friendly recreational opportunities close to home. We look forward to getting to know the conservation champions of the future as we begin expanding the trail system at Palmer Woods.
As important, we’re providing one more reason to love this incomparable place on Earth. We’re offering yet another opportunity for people to connect with the peninsula and each other—and that’s one of our best insurance policies to ensure that the Leelanau so many generations have cherished will forever endure.