(From our 2020 Annual Report). As the year came to a close, it was pretty incredible to look back over 2020 and realize that with your help and the dedication of some wonderful landowners, we closed 13 projects, totaling over 954 acres. Some highlights: An unprecedented number of family farms were protected (five) totaling 500 acres—forever available to generations of farmers to come. In addition, we added 350 beautiful acres to the Palmer Woods Forest Reserve. Finally, we created the new natural area, Pat’s Preserve at Lime Lake. Even more amazing, we did it all in a pandemic.
Your support makes all good things possible! Here’s a run-down of what we accomplished, listed by date. We have a tradition of ringing a cowbell in the office on the days that projects close. This year we had to do that virtually.
The Jedena Farm: 81 acres along French Road. Project completed 1/30/20
Just before our office was closed due to Covid-19, we completed a project that had long been in the works, protecting land known locally as the old Fleese farm with a conservation easement.
For years, Walter Jedena had long admired the property on the corner of French and Hohnke Roads. He had driven by it many times, always intrigued by the “bucolic” land: its expansive fields, beautiful barn, the house with long johns waving in the breeze off the front porch, the weathered siding. When the property was listed for sale, he quickly made an offer.
Walter is not a farmer; in fact he has made his living as an investor and developer. But with each and every project he has taken on, says Walter, “the highest and best use of each property is always at the forefront of my thinking. I wish for the land to be used to its greatest potential. The Fleese farm has good fertile land. You could put houses on it and make a few bucks. But the value of the farmland is that it is there in perpetuity.”
The Jedena property contains prime, unique and locally important agricultural soils, and six acres of non-forested wetlands. This land is private and not open to the public. Read the in-depth story here.
Boskydel Vineyard: 55 acres overlooking Lake Leelanau. Project completed 4/22/20.
The late and legendary Bernie Rink was the first to grow wine grapes commercially in Leelanau, planting a one-acre test plot in 1965. “I doubt if the wine industry would have happened here if not for Bernie,” says vintner and past Conservancy Board Member Larry Mawby. “He generously shared his knowledge with all of us aspiring vintners.”
Before Bernie died in 2017 at age 91, he and his five sons began the process to forever protect their land with a conservation easement. “It was Dad’s idea to protect the land,” says Jim, his oldest son. “Growing up, he had a saying that he repeated many times over the course of our lives. The gist of it was that you should always try to leave the world a better place than you found it.”
Thanks to the Rink family, this ideal grape growing site will forever be available to future farmers. This land is private and not open to the public. Read the in-depth story here.
Pat’s Preserve at Lime Lake—25 acres added in 2020. Project completed 5/20/20
The dream to create a new preserve on Lime Lake became a reality in 2020. We began this project in 2019 with a 5.9-acre purchase, and last year we acquired two more parcels (25 acres). The new preserve protects over 1,000 feet of shoreline and helps to ensure the long-term water quality of Lime Lake and the Good Harbor Bay Watershed.
The new preserve is named in memory of Ron Lovasz’s late wife, Pat. “Ron’s significant gift brought the fundraising results over goal,” says Meg Delor, Development Director.
From the new Preserve’s crescent-shaped shore, you can see Sugar Loaf. Wetlands here act like a giant sponge, stemming erosion, trapping pollution, and slowly releasing cleansed water back into the lake.
It is haven for wildlife; the forest is home to songbirds, red-shouldered hawks and eagles. In the spring-fed stream, brook trout spawn and thrive. Snakes and toads, ducks and otter are also frequently spotted here.
One former owner had wanted to fill wetlands, build a vehicle bridge over the stream and install utility lines underneath it. That would have threatened fragile habitat and created untold disturbance. An ecological catastrophe diverted, thanks to our supporters and caring landowners. Plans for public access here are in the works; stay tuned. Read more about the new preserve here.
The Mawby Family Farm: 152 acres near Suttons Bay. Project completed 5/22/20.
Ron Mawby’s memories of growing up on a fruit farm just outside of Suttons Bay are poignant. He recalls how the kitchen in their house had a big picture window in it over the sink facing west. “At bloom time out that window was a vista of white. Mom insisted each year that we all come look. I recall being struck by both its beauty and the sense I had that Mom took it as a gift. It was given to us, yet had to be worked for in order for the gift to continue,” says Ron.
Ron and his siblings, Larry Mawby and Joan (Mawby) Dunklow have ensured that the springtime vista, as well as a spectacular view in the other direction—overlooking Power Island and Grand Traverse Bay—will never change. In May, the siblings protected 152 acres with a conservation easement—a tool that keeps the land in private hands, but restricts it from development forever.
Increasing development nearby motivated the family to protect the land. “Everyone wants to come up to Leelanau because it’s so beautiful,” says Joan, who lives near Suttons Bay with her husband, Dave. “But it’s not going to be the same Leelanau we love if everyone develops their land. I want others to be able to experience the beauty and peace that we did growing up here.” This land is private and not open to the public. Read the in-depth story here.
Heffron Land near Pat’s Preserve at Lime Lake preserves 30 acres. Project completed 6/26/20.
Thanks to unrestricted gifts to our land protection fund, we were able to acquire this ecological gem from the Allan J. Heffron Trust. The acquisition is located at the corner of Narlock and Maple City roads—not adjacent to but near Pat’s Preserve at Lime Lake.
Giant white pines, a rich conifer swamp and diverse wetland habitat nurture a plethora of plants and wildlife—including bears! The Heffron family purchased the land in the late 1980s and offered it for sale to the Conservancy after learning about the new preserve on Lime Lake. “We knew that it was an important parcel of the watershed,” says Mrs. Heffron. “Our intention was to protect the lake from what could have happened. Our kids all grew up fishing, water skiing and swimming on Lime Lake and we have many cherished memories. If you spend time on Lime Lake you can’t help but realize how unique it is; a hidden gem, really.” This land will eventually be open to the public.
Nemeskal Farm: 77 Acres in the Bohemian Valley. Project completed 8/26/20
The Nemeskal family’s 77 protected acres are located in the beautiful ‘Bohemian Valley’ along Co. Rd. 669 in Cleveland Township. The land contains approximately 40 acres of agricultural land; the remainder of the property contains beautiful hardwoods, a spring-fed pond, wetlands and 16 acres of prime, unique and locally important soils. The family will retain the existing farmstead and continue agricultural practices on the fields, which are currently in hay, along with conducting forest management of the hardwoods under an approved management plan.
“My brother, sister and I are pleased to have part of our 160-year-old farm become protected and preserved through the Leelanau Conservancy,” says Mary Ann Nemeskal. “I think our father would be very happy to know that his childhood home will stay the way it is today and has been for the last 33 years.” This land is private and is not open to the public. To come soon: a longer story about the Nemeskal project.
Palmer Woods Forest Reserve adds 350 acres. Project completed (3 parcels) 8/31/20; 10/1/20 and 12/18/20
In 2020, the Conservancy reached the ambitious goal of raising $3.5 million for a 350-acre addition to Palmer Woods. This stunningly beautiful land will expand the Palmer Woods’ trail system to a projected 40 miles of hiking, cross-country skiing, and mountain biking trails for all to enjoy. It also protects a thriving wildlife corridor and expands Palmer Woods’ border with the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to five miles.
Creating such a large swath of protected land helps to ensure that groundwater-fed Glen Lake and Good Harbor Bay remain healthy, and allows the northern hardwood forest to continue to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration.
“We are humbled by the outpouring of community support and love for Palmer Woods,” says Executive Director Tom Nelson. “I’d like to give special thanks for the early and generous support of the Edmund F. & Virginia B. Ball Foundation and the matching challenges from the Carls Foundation and Ron & Marvel Jones.”
Stay tuned for updates on trail development and eventual public access to the new addition. We look forward to sharing this beautiful land with you. Learn more about this new addition: It’s Official! Majestic Palmer Woods Grows by 350 Acres
Dechow Family Protects 30 acres in the Bohemian Valley with 2nd donated conservation easement. Project completed 12/28/20
For the second time, Paul Dechow and his wife, Joanne Blum, are conservation heroes. They have donated a conservation easement and protected 30 additional acres adjacent to their 105-acre home and property, on which they donated a conservation easement in 2017.
This project closes a gap between Krumwiede Forest Reserve and their first conservation easement. The 30-acre hardwood forest also lies adjacent to Palmer Woods and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, adding to a large block of protected lands.
The Dechows purchased the 30 acres from Paul’s sister and her husband, Lynn and Jim McAndrews, wanting to add more hardwood forest to their property.
Paul enjoys collecting wood from downed trees for woodworking projects. As with the first project, Paul says that he and Joanne wanted to “see the land stay the same for future generations.” The Dechow family history in this area runs deep and is detailed in a story on our website after their first project: https://leelanauconservancy.org/?s=dechow
This land is private and not open to the public.