Chikaming Open Lands supports Cherry Beach expansion effort

Posted on September 19, 2018

Find Article HERE.

Chikaming Open Lands would like to express its support for the efforts of the Cherry Beach Committee and Chikaming Township to expand Cherry Beach. We were happy to provide a letter of support for the Township’s grant application to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. We have also agreed to assist the Township with stewardship activities and future educational programs after the property is acquired.

However, as an organization, Chikaming Open Lands will not be providing direct financial support. We pursue our mission as a land conservancy by acquiring land and conservation easements, either through donations from landowners or by purchase with the help of specific fundraising campaigns. A financial investment by the organization is considered only under these circumstances – that is, when we will own title to the land or hold a conservation easement on it. Neither is feasible in this case.

We believe the expansion of the Township’s public spaces, including its beaches, is a worthy cause that will benefit the community. We also believe it takes a commitment from all of us and the leadership of many for land conservation efforts to be successful. We commend the Cherry Beach Committee and Chikaming Township for their dedication to this project and we encourage all residents and friends of the Township to consider supporting it.

For more information about the Cherry Beach project, please visit

The Board of Directors of Chikaming Open Lands.

New Trail beginning of improvements at Flynn Woods Preserve

Posted on August 21, 2018

Find article HERE.

LAKESIDE — On Saturday, Aug. 11, volunteers cleared brush, removed the remnants of an old fence and cleared invasive plants to create a short stretch of trail to connect Flynn Woods Preserve with the nearby 80-acre Robinson Woods Preserve (they’re separated by East Road).

Chikaming Open Lands Executive Director Ryan Postema said the pathway will both connect visitors to the new amenities and lead them to the existing trail system that goes further into the preserve. He said that trail system (based on a two-track dating to the days where there was a home on the property) will be improved and altered as well.

In the near future a parking area, picnic shelter and portable restroom facility will be added on the front portion of the 35-acre property (near a large oak tree).

“It’s going in this summer,” Postema added.

Chikaming Open Lands also is seeking to establish a new 49-acre nature preserve with Galien River frontage on Warren Woods Road between Warren Woods State Park and Chikaming Township Park and Preserve to be dedicated in memory of the organization’s late executive director, Chris Thompson.

Postema said the purchase price is $555,000, and he said existing Partners in Conservation money from The Pokagon Fund will cover about a third of the total cost.

“The other two thirds we’re raising in donations and foundation grant requests (which are still pending).”

He said about $320,000 was available for the preserve as of Aug. 11 — adding that the contract deadline to purchase the property is Sept. 30.

He said the portion of the land closer to Warren Woods Road is open and will be restored as a native prairie while areas near the river are forested.

Postema said tours of the site are being conducted, with several open to the general public being planned for later in August.

Individuals interested in contributing to the project or scheduling a tour may contact the COL offices at (269) 405-1006. Online donations may be made at

Chikaming Open Lands reports that the month-long #10Trail Challenge (co-sponsored by the Rotary Club of Harbor Country) held in July was “a huge success!”

More than 160 people registered, with about 40 completing all 10 trails and another 31 completing anywhere from 1 to 9 of the trails. More than 70 prizes will be distributed to participants.

“This was a great way to get people outdoors and explore new places in the area that, for some, have never heard of before. We were able to get a wide range of ages out on the trails, it was exciting to see so many happy faces in the pictures. We got quite a few comments from people saying they haven’t heard of many of these trails, loved them and will definitely visit them again,” said  Education and Outreach Coordinator Casey Struecker in a news release.

“We had people sign up from New Buffalo, Three Oaks, Sawyer, Harbert, Lakeside, Bridgman, Stevensville, Saint Joseph, Benton Harbor, Berrien Springs, Buchanan, Galien, South Bend, La Porte, Michigan City, Chicago and even from Maryland (she was visiting relatives that live in Sawyer for a week, and they completed the challenge!)”

Comments from participants included the following:

“I love to hike and had fun visiting the preserves, many of which I had not been to before” — Lisa Newell from Granger, Ind.

“I finally did it- made it through all ten trails and had a blast! Thank you so much for this challenge — it was my first time visiting all of the locations, and I will definitely be visiting them again (I especially liked Galien River County Park)” — Melissa Kaluzny from Goshen, Ind.

COL plans to do the challenge again next year, switching up some of the trails.

Chikaming Open Lands looks to establish preserve in memory of Chris Thompson

Posted on August 10, 2018


SAWYER — Chikaming Open Lands (COL) is seeking to acquire a new nature preserve in Chikaming Township, to be dedicated in memory of the organization’s late executive director, Chris Thompson.

Located on Warren Woods Road between Warren Woods State Park and Chikaming Township Park and Preserve, the 49-acre property features large swaths of open fields, woodland, and frontage on the Galien River. Upon acquiring the land, COL will manage it as a nature preserve open to the public for outdoor recreation.

The conservation organization’s immediate plans for the property include developing a trail system, improving public access, and restoring the open fields to prairie. COL will also explore the possibility of offering access to the Galien River in the future.

The property holds significant ecological value due in large part to its proximity to the river. The forested areas along the river provide benefits to wildlife, including migratory songbirds (Audubon has designated the Galien River corridor from Lake Michigan to New Troy as an “Important Bird Area”). Protecting upland and wetlands along the river also improves water quality in the Galien, and ultimately, in Lake Michigan.

Chris Thompson, COL’s previous executive director, passed away suddenly on June 3, 2016. Shortly thereafter, COL’s Board of Directors resolved to proactively seek out a property that the organization would acquire and protect as a nature preserve in Thompson’s memory. After receiving input from local municipalities, park boards and community members, COL developed a set of criteria for evaluating potential properties for acquisition. The top two requirements were that the land be ecologically significant, and that it be open and accessible for the community to enjoy.

“Chris felt strongly that Chikaming Open Lands’ natural areas should be welcoming and available for everyone in our community to experience the outdoors,” says current Executive Director Ryan Postema. “His philosophy was that conservation really begins and ends with  people—making their lives better by enriching the places where they live, work and visit.”

Acquisition of the property requires an investment of $555,000. COL has committed one-third of that cost, using funds previously received from The Pokagon Fund for ongoing land acquisition. To secure the remaining funds, COL is seeking grants from foundations and organizations as well as individual donations. To date, more than half of the required funding has been procured. The full amount must be raised by Sept. 30.

“I was president of the Board when we hired Chris as executive director more than seven years ago, and had a relationship with him not just as an employee, but also as a friend,” said COL founder and former board member Steve Smith. “His focus was not just making COL a better land trust, but also to make this community in Southwest Michigan a better place to live. I truly believe that the acquisition of this property will carry on his legacy by allowing COL to create a welcoming place where residents and visitors alike can enjoy the beautiful natural landscapes that make this area so special.”

Individuals interested in contributing to the project may contact the COL offices at (269) 405-1006. Online donations may be made at Postema is also offering guided walks of the property. Interested parties may contact COL to inquire about available dates.

Treks to fill your midsummer dreams across Michiana

Posted on August 10, 2018


If the heat has given you woozy dreams of shady forests, nighttime escapades and people in silly costumes — well — those aren’t just dreams. The next month is full of them, thanks to local parks and civic organizations. And at summer’s end, we have details on the newly reshaped Bike Michiana for Hospice ride.

• Hike for prizes: If you hike three or four trails in southwest Michiana’s Harbor Country, you can score a free cup of coffee or other beverage from Infusco Coffee Roasters in Sawyer. Do five to nine trails, and you’ll be eating a free sandwich at David’s Delicatessen in New Buffalo. Do 10, and you’ve got a pizza at Patellie’s in Three Oaks. But you can’t win unless you snap a photo inside the selfie frame that has just been erected at each of 10 trails in the #10Trail Challenge posed by Chikaming Open Lands and the Rotary Club of Harbor Country. You’ve got until July 31.

Before hiking, you must register first at, where you can learn more about each trail and where to post on social media. Or you can email photos to Prizes will be awarded Aug. 1.

The 10 trails are in lush parks and preserves that all boast shade. They are: Robinson Woods Preserve in Chikaming Township; Jens Jensen Preserve in Sawyer; Turtle Creek Preserve in New Buffalo; Galien River County Park in New Buffalo; Love Creek County Park in Berrien Center; Chikaming Township Park and Preserve in Harbert; Harbert Road Preserve in Harbert; Kesling Nature Preserve in Three Oaks; Hoadley Nature Trail at Watkins Park in Three Oaks; and Ambler Flatwoods Nature Preserve in Michigan City.

#10Trail Challenge focuses on local hiking hotspots

Posted on June 28, 2018

Article found HERE.

SAWYER — Through­out the month of July, Chikaming Open Lands (COL) and the Rotary Club of Harbor Country are organizing the #10Trail Challenge, a pro­gram designed to highlight local hiking trails in Michi­ana while offering food prizes for participating.

At any time during July, participants in the #10Trail Challenge will hike any or all of the following 10 trails in the area: COL’s Robinson Woods Preserve, Jens Jensen Preserve, and Turtle Creek Preserve; Berrien County’s Galien River County Park and Love Creek Nature Center; Chikaming Town­ship Park and Preserve and Harbert Road Preserve; Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy’s Kesling Na­ture Preserve; the Village of Three Oaks’ Hoadley Nature Trail; and Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s Ambler Flatwoods Nature Preserve (in Michigan City).

Along the trail in each of these natural areas, COL and Rotary will install pic­ture frame “selfie stations.” Participants are asked to take a photo of themselves at these stations, and tag COL on Instagram using #10trail and #chikamingo­penlands, and/or post the photo on Facebook tagging @chikamingopenlands.

Those not using social media may email COL their photos at col@chikamin­ COL will track the photo submissions throughout the month. Participants who hike any three to four trails will win a free cup of coffee (or other beverage of their choice) at Infusco Coffee Roasters in Sawyer.

Those who hike any five to nine of the trails will re­ceive a sandwich of their choice at David’s Delicates­sen in New Buffalo. Partici­pants who hike all 10 trails will win a pizza from Patel­lie’s in Three Oaks. Photo submissions will be tallied and prizes awarded on Au­gust 1, 2018.

Participants must reg­ister before beginning the #10Trail Challenge by filling out an online registration form, found on the web­site at Registration is available now through the end of July.

The #10Trail Challenge is the latest program in an on­going partnership between COL and the Rotary Club of Harbor Country. Along with providing funding to support the program, Rotary volunteers have assisted in the planning process and in building and installing the selfie stations.

For the past two years, Rotary has also supported COL’s environmental edu­cation program for local elementary school children, the Mighty Acorns.

Chikaming Open Lands is the local land conser­vancy dedicated to preserv­ing the open spaces and natural rural character of southwest Berrien County. COL works to protect and restore native plant and ani­mal habitat, improve water quality, and permanently preserve ecologically sig­nifi cant forests, prairies and wetlands, as well as prime farmland and other open spaces in this area. COL serves nine townships in southwest Berrien County, and has been instrumental in preserving 1,755 acres of open space since its found­ing in 1999.