The Leelanau Conservancy announced plans today to expand its largest natural area to over 1000 acres. With the Palmer Woods 1000-Acre Project, the Conservancy hopes to purchase 350 acres of forestland adjacent to the 721-acre Palmer Woods Forest Reserve near Glen Arbor. The Conservancy is now asking for the public’s help to raise the final $325,000 of the $3.5 million goal to purchase the property. The expansion would offer additional recreational trails, as well as add a new dimension to the property by creating a 5-mile shared border with the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. If the project is successful, Palmer Woods will eventually offer 40 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing trails.
“When we found out about an opportunity to add 350 acres to our current Palmer Woods Forest Reserve, it was something we couldn’t pass up,” said the Conservancy’s Executive Director Tom Nelson. “This addition will bring Palmer Woods to over 1,000 acres of majestic northern hardwood forest protected for native plants and animals.” This type of landscape-scale protection allows species that need large spaces like black bears, bobcats, and red-shoulder hawks to thrive. The property is one of the largest privately-owned intact tracts of forestland left in the county, and permanently protecting the new parcel would create an ideal wildlife corridor between Palmer Woods and the national lakeshore land.
The Palmer Woods 1000-Acre Project offers a chance to protect not only plants and wildlife but Leelanau’s water. “With the purchase of this addition, we can protect the waters of Good Harbor Bay, preventing sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus from entering our waters,” said the Conservancy’s Development Director Meg Delor. “And, we will build upon our work to create a living laboratory at Palmer Woods, where we can study and share information about sustainable forestry, carbon sequestration, and habitat protection.” The funds raised from this project will purchase the land, build the trail system, and steward and protect this property in perpetuity.
Although protecting land is always the Conservancy’s primary goal, expanding recreation opportunities is also a focus for the property. Palmer Woods has had a record number of visitors thanks to the 6 miles of single-track mountain bike trails that have been built there in the last two years. “We have already seen a close-knit community form around the new mountain bike trails, as well as 3.5 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails in winter. This place is truly a four-season recreation destination and offers a place for families to be active outdoors together year-round that was lacking in Leelanau County before,” said Nelson.
Ross Satterwhite, the Conservancy’s Chairman of the Board, elaborated: “there’s something about Palmer Woods. This project has so many facets that make it unique: from the chance to sequester carbon by protecting intact forestland, to Palmer Woods’ exceptional wildlife habitat, to its ideal landscape for building sustainable hiking, mountain biking, and ski trails. We have a rare opportunity to make a transformational difference in our community. We need support from members, donors, and our community to make this vision a reality.”
Thanks to a generous match, a single donation to the project can have triple the impact. The Conservancy is thrilled to have been granted two generous matching challenges from the Carls Foundation and Ron & Marvel Jones. “That means we only need to raise $325,000 more to reach our $3.5 million goal and that all gifts we receive moving forward will be matched 2:1,” Delor explained. For example, a $1,000 gift would mean $3,000 for the Palmer Woods 1000-Acre project. The Conservancy aims to complete fundraising by the end of June.
“You can help us make this vision a reality today. Your gift will join many others and together, we can create a natural area that protects our forest, our native flora and fauna, and our water while providing outstanding recreational opportunities year-round,” said Nelson, “You can help ensure that Leelanau County remains a special place today and for generations to come.”
Nelson will be leading monthly hikes through August on the new proposed addition starting Saturday, February 29th at 1 pm for anyone interested in seeing the addition and learning more about the project. The Conservancy will also host an open house starting at 3 pm on the 29th at the Cherry Republic Public House, where Conservancy staff will be available to answer any questions.
To learn more about the Palmer Woods 1000-Acre Project, or to make a donation, visit leelanauconservancy.org/palmerwoods1000 or contact Meg Delor at 231-256-9665.