Posted on November 16, 2018
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SAWYER — Chikaming Open Lands has acquired a new nature preserve in Chikaming Township and named it for its late executive director, COL reported.
The 49-acre property includes open fields, high-quality woodlands and frontage on the Galien River. It will be dedicated in memory of Chris Thompson, who died in 2016. The property is along Warren Woods Road between Warren Woods State Park and Chikaming Township Park and Preserve.
The Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve will be open to the public for outdoor recreation.
COL reported that more than 125 individuals and organizations participated in a campaign to raise $226,000 to complete the purchase of the property and protect the open space into perpetuity. The deal was wrapped up Oct. 30.
COL’s plans include developing a system of hiking trails, improving public access and restoring the open fields to native prairie. The organization will explore the possibility of offering access to the Galien River.
“Chris’s vision was to connect the people of our community to the land, by providing the kinds of outdoor experiences that are proven to make people healthier and happier,” Executive Director Ryan Postema said. “Our goal for this new preserve is to create a welcoming space for local residents and visitors alike to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.”
Chikaming Open Lands is a land conservancy dedicated to preserving the open spaces and natural rural character of southern Berrien County. It has secured more than 1,800 acres of open space since its founding in 1999.
Posted on November 16, 2018
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THREE OAKS — Chikaming Open Lands (COL) acquired a new nature preserve in Chikaming Township on October 30, 2018. The 49-acre property, consisting of swaths of open fields, high-quality woodland, and frontage on the Galien River, will be dedicated in memory of the organization’s late executive director, Chris Thompson.
More than 125 individuals and organizations participated in a campaign to raise the funds needed to complete the purchase of the property and protect the open space in perpetuity. Local members of the community and other of Thompson’s friends, family and colleagues in the conservation community raised more than $226,000 to acquire the property in his memory. COL was also awarded a $100,000 grant from The Carls Foundation, and George Lucas of RE/MAX Harbor Country, the real estate agent who represented COL in the transaction, donated his commission to the project. The remainder of the purchase price was provided by COL, using grant funds previously received from The Pokagon Fund. In addition, COL received a commitment from the neighboring Owners at Lakeside Cabins Resort (LCR) and Ted and Tim O’Neil, the managers of LCR, to assist in funding future stewardship costs.
Located on Warren Woods Road between Warren Woods State Park and Chikaming Township Park and Preserve, the Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve will be open to the public for outdoor recreation. COL’s plans for the property include developing a system of hiking trails, improving public access, and restoring the open fields to native prairie. The organization will also explore the possibility of offering access to the Galien River in the future. “Chris’s vision was to connect the people of our community to the land, by providing the kinds of outdoor experiences that are proven to make people healthier and happier,” said current Executive Director Ryan Postema. “Our goal for this new preserve is to create a welcoming space for local residents and visitors alike to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.”
Thompson 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 his memory. “We are so pleased to have had the opportunity to acquire this
property in Chris’ memory,” said Postema. “It was exactly what we were looking for—the kind of place Chris would have loved; and moreover, that our entire community can enjoy.”
Chikaming Open Lands is the local land conservancy dedicated to preserving the open spaces and natural rural character of southern Berrien County. COL works to protect and restore native plant and animal habitat, improve water quality, and permanently preserve ecologically significant 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 more than 1,800 acres of open space since its founding in 1999.
Posted on November 8, 2018
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SAWYER — A tiny brown spring peeper frog was one of the stars of the show when the first Mighty Acorns group from Bridgman Elementary School explored Chikaming Open Lands’ Jens Jensen Preserve on Friday, Nov. 2.
The little hopper was discovered and studied by third-graders in consecutive classes searching the natural area near Sawyer during the fall field trip.
“So far we’ve had much success with the nature exploration finding our little tree frogs and some centipedes, somebody found a couple bees and managed to get them in their habitat,” said Jen Thompson, Development and Marketing Manager for Chikaming Open Lands (COL), adding that Nov. 2 wasn’t just the first Bridgman Elementary Mighty Acorns outing, it also was the first field trip held at Jens Jensen.
Bridgman Elementary third-grade teacher Barb Jewell brought her 22 pupils to the Jens Jensen Preserve in Sawyer on Nov. 2 (one of three classes to take part).
“This is our first time out, we’ve been very excited,” she said. “We have a beautiful day.”
Jewell said third-graders (along with fourth-graders who were slated to have their fall field trip on Nov. 9) will visit the COL preserve three times during the school year (the next two are scheduled for February and May).
“The kids have a pre-activity that we do at school. We learned about adaptation and how plants and animals survive in their environments by adapting.”
Jewell said teachers participated in a recent training session with COL Education and Outreach Coordinator Casey Struecker at the school and will do a follow-up lesson after the fall field trips.
“It’s all connected to our science standards for the State of Michigan,” she said.
In addition to the teacher training, Struecker said COL also sent a letter to parents explaining the Mighty Acorns program.
“We’ve already gotten great feedback from the teachers saying it’s been a lot of fun,” Struecker said.
Bridgman is the third local district to participate in the Mighty Acorns program. Fall field trips for students in the third through fifth grades at River Valley and New Buffalo elementary schools also have taken place this year.
Mighty Acorns engages students and teachers in field studies and hands-on learning opportunities created by The Nature Conservancy and is now run out of the Science in Action Center at the Field Museum in Chicago. It consists of both in-class work and field trips to local natural areas (Local field trips are led by Chikaming Open Lands personnel).
Elementary school teachers handle the classroom work, with a teacher kit including a curriculum guide, flash cards, handouts and more provided by the Field Museum.
Each participant has a Nature Exploration Backpack (supplied through a grant from the Harbor Country Rotary Club for River Valley and New Buffalo, and the Lakeshore Rotary Club for Bridgman Elementary) filled with magnifying glasses, bug boxes, field guides, notebooks, portable habitats and those monoculars.
Students divide into three groups which rotate between exploration, stewardship and a fun game designed to impart knowledge about the natural world.
Struecker led a “Who has a Better Beak” game on Nov. 2 that teaches about the beaks birds use to eat various types of food.
The game consisted of stations providing practical methods of replicating how different birds consume everything from mice to seeds using their specially adapted beaks.
“These bird beaks that we’re going to see help them to eat what is in their habitat,” she said.
At the conclusion of one session, Struecker asked some of the third-graders what their favorite food was (responses included spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nuggets, and marshmallows), and what kind of beak would be best for eating it.
The other two Mighty Acorns activities at Jens Jensen Preserve involved up-close exploration of the woodland and its wildlife, and stewardship activities during which students and their chaperones — parents, teachers and members of the Lakeshore Rotary Club — cleared the trail of sticks and leaves in the wake of a recent windstorm using rakes and loppers (“a tool, not a toy”).
“Today we are going to be working on the trails. After the wind storm we had a couple of weeks ago there are a lot of dead branches,” said COL Executive Director Ryan Postema, who led the Stewardship portion of the field trip.
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Thompson said making multiple trips to the preserve allows students to see how the land changes from season to season and the impact stewardship activities can have.
Struecker said since this was the first time the Jen Jensen Preserve had been explored by Mighty Acorns pupils for its wildlife, “it will be interesting and helpful for us to know what lives out here.”
Thompson said “a ton of parents” volunteered to help during the Nov. 2 field trip.
Struecker said all those volunteers were helpful because the 60-plus students from Bridgman Elementary was their biggest yet.
“I think it’s a really cool experience for the kids,” said one of those parent volunteers, Brittany Withers.
“It helps the parents to be familiar with this preserve so they can bring their kids back. I heard a lot of them saying they didn’t know this was here,” Jewell said.
This is the third school year that River Valley has participated in the program, with field trips taking place at Robinson Woods Preserve (and sometimes also at the adjacent Flynn Woods Preserve).
New Buffalo is beginning its second year of Mighty Acorns, with outdoor excursions held right behind the school in the Turtle Creek Preserve and district-owned woodlands and open spaces.
Struecker said she had two solid weeks of Mighty Acorns fall field trips ahead of the two Bridgman outings.
“It’s the same program, but we’re getting to know the kids,” Thompson said, noting that this year’s River Valley fifth-graders are in their third year of Mighty Acorns.
Chikaming Open Lands is the local land conservancy for a nine-township area in Southern Berrien County and is dedicated to preserving the open spaces and the natural world character of the area.
This mission includes protecting plants and animals, water quality and to permanently preserve ecologically significant forests, prairies, wetlands, prime farmland and other open spaces. Thompson noted that landscapes containing high densities of native vegetation, environmental qualities and/or natural features are prevalent in the Chikaming-Three Oaks-New Buffalo area.
Posted on September 19, 2018
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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 www.cherrybeachproject.com.
The Board of Directors of Chikaming Open Lands.
Posted on August 21, 2018
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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 www.chikamingopenlands.org/ctmp.
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.