BITELY, Mich. — An anonymous donor gave their family property to the Land Conservancy of West Michigan to create a public nature preserve in Newaygo County.
The property is 155 acres of natural land along the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River, including 5,321 feet of riverfront.
The land trust closed on the property in mid-April.
The land conservancy plans to transform the property into an open to the public nature preserve called “Upriver Nature Preserve.”
In doing so, it will create a parking lot, trails and wayfinding signage.
This donation also includes an 8-acre piece of land with a house and garage.
The land conservancy says it will protect that with a conservation easement and sell to endow the ongoing care and maintenance of the new nature preserve.
The Land Conservancy of West Michigan has helped protect more than 4,400 acres of land in the Pere Marquette River watershed by collaborating with private landowners to establish conservation easements on their properties.
This preserve will be the first land conservancy property that offers public access to Michigan’s only undammed river, known for its water quality and trout-fishing opportunities.
The property also includes a rare sand prairie and the land conservancy says, with its restoration efforts, the land could provide a much-needed habitat for the endangered Karner blue butterfly and several native species of plants, insects and birds that depend on these disappearing ecosystems.
“We are so grateful to the family for choosing to donate their property so that we all may enjoy its resplendent beauty.
“They have created a profound legacy with their support for natural lands conservation.
“For the first time, visitors will be able to visit a land conservancy nature preserve on the magnificent Little South Branch and experience one of our region’s most beautiful river systems,” said Kim Karn, land conservancy executive director.
The land conservancy will host a trail-building workday at the new preserve on Saturday, July 9 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
To stay up to date on this project or to volunteer to help, click here.