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The Cherry Beach Project

Posted on July 3, 2019

Dear Members and Friends of Chikaming Open Lands,

As you may know, Chikaming Township is currently pursuing an opportunity to purchase the 3-acre property adjacent to Cherry Beach. The Township, the Cherry Beach Committee and several partners have undertaken a fundraising campaign to raise approximately $1.6 million in matching funds for a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF).

The acquisition of this property will significantly expand the public beach area, as well as preserve an area of forested dune and a stream corridor within it. This is important as the forested dunes along Lake Michigan provide important habitat for migratory songbirds and a variety of other species. The small creek that runs through the property connects it to the wetlands in COL’s nature preserves on Harbert Road, thus protecting this parcel maintains a corridor of natural areas to aid movement of wildlife.

Chikaming Open Lands is an organization dedicated to the preservation of natural areas and open space in Berrien County. As such, we wholly support the goal of the Cherry Beach Committee and Chikaming Township to expand the Cherry Beach property.  In anticipation of the successful acquisition, we have signed a 20-year agreement with the Township to provide advice, guidance, and support for stewardship of the natural areas of Cherry Beach. This agreement not only strengthens the Township’s application for the necessary MNRTF grant; it also reflects our continued commitment to partner with municipalities and other organizations across Berrien County to promote land conservation and stewardship.  

The Cherry Beach Project is a rare opportunity to preserve valuable, undeveloped open space along our lakefront.  We believe it takes a commitment from all of us and the leadership of many for land conservation efforts to be successful.  We encourage you, as a supporter of the work of Chikaming Open Lands, to also support the Township’s conservation efforts by making a pledge to the Cherry Beach Project.

For more information or to make a pledge, visit


Ryan J. Postema

Executive Director, Chikaming Open Lands

#10TrailChallenge on tap in July

Posted on June 27, 2019

Find Article 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.

At any time during July, participants in the Challenge can 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; St. Joseph County Indiana’s Spicer Lake Nature Preserve; Chikaming Township’s Chikaming Township Park and Preserve; the Village of Three Oaks’ Hoadley Nature Trail; Warren Dunes State Park; the Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s Ambler Flatwoods Nature Preserve; and Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve.

Participants must pre-register by filling out an online registration form, found on the COL website at 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 will track the photo submissions throughout the month. Participants who hike any three or four trails will win a free ice cream cone at Scoops Ice Cream in Bridgman. Those who hike any five to nine of the trails will receive a turkey sandwich at The Peasant’s Pantry in Sawyer. Participants who hike all 10 trails will win a “Pick Three Combo Platter” (choice of BBQ ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken or smoked ham) from New Buffalo Bill’s in New Buffalo. Photo submissions will be tallied and prizes awarded on Aug. 1, 2019.

Chikaming Open Lands to dedicate Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve

Posted on May 31, 2019

Find article HERE.

THREE OAKS — Chikaming Open Lands (COL) is holding a public dedication on June 9, 2019 at 2 p.m. EDT to celebrate the acquisition of the Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve, located on Warren Woods Road in Chikaming Township. The celebration will take place at the Lakeside Cabins Resort, which is immediately adjacent to the new nature preserve.

The event is open to the public and will include a dedication of the preserve in memory of former COL Executive Director Chris Thompson, who passed away unexpectedly in 2016. Guided walks of the 49-acre property, which features open fields, woodland and frontage on the Galien River, will also be available.

COL acquired the nature preserve on October 30, 2018. 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. In addition, COL was awarded a grant from The Carls Foundation, and was able to utilize grant funds previously received from The Pokagon Fund to complete the project.

 “We are pleased to have the opportunity to honor Chris by dedicating this new preserve in his memory,” says COL Executive Director Ryan Postema.

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 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 1,900 acres of open space since its founding in 1999.

Smart Growth: Expanding Protected Properties

Posted on April 30, 2019

Find Article HERE.

Ever wondered what kinds of things we look for when we are considering acquiring a new piece of land to protect? You’d be correct if you are thinking of ecological value, important plant and/or animal habitat, or potential for outdoor recreation. Those are all very important elements. One factor you may not have thought about is: is it next to an existing protected property? 

If the answer is yes, the potential acquisition jumps up on our priority list. Why? Because adding adjacent land to properties already under protection allows larger contiguous areas for wildlife to call home, provides additional space for native flora to flourish, increases public access, and can even bridge a gap between protected lands, creating what we call a “greenway” that we can potentially expand even further in the future.

A great example of this is our recent acquisition of 12 acres next to Burns Prairie Preserve, allowing us to double the size of the existing preserve. Located on Mount Zion Road in Galien Township, Burns Prairie Preserve features prairie, wetlands and woodland. After a successful restoration undertaken in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serve, the prairie boasts native grasses, and in the summer, an abundance of wildflowers in bloom.

And now there’s potential to expand Burns Prairie even further, by acquiring up to 30 acres just to the north of the new addition. This would create a 55-acre protected natural area, providing expanded habitat for wildlife like grassland birds, and the opportunity to improve public access for outdoor recreation. We are currently seeking funding to help us further increase the size of Burns Prairie Preserve. If you’d like to help, contact our office at or (269) 405-1006.  

​Conservation Partners: Transferring Protected Properties from One Land

Posted on April 12, 2019

Conservation Partners: Transferring Protected Properties from One Land 

Conservancy to Another

Chikaming Open Lands (COL) received two new nature preserves this past December, Harbert Woods Preserve in Harbert and Merganser Point Preserve in New Buffalo. While these two preserves are new to COL, they were originally protected by Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, which is based in Galesburg, MI. Though relatively small, the 5-acre Harbert Woods Preserve and 10-acre Merganser Point Preserve each boast high- quality natural ecosystems.

Harbert Woods Preserve is located to the east of a high lakeshore dune only a few hundred feet from Lake Michigan. The southern and western edges are mature woods with large red maple, tulip poplar and yellow birch trees. The bountiful wetlands found on the preserve, along with an abundance of spring wildflowers and towering trees, give the area a unique oasis for the local wildlife. It is also in close vicinity to two other properties we have protected, Critter Haven Preserve and The Woods Preserve.

Merganser Point Preserve is located just adjacent to where the Galien River meets the New Buffalo Marina. It is best viewed from the river itself, but it can also be seen from the Whittaker Street bridge looking to the northeast. Consisting mostly of wetland, Merganser Point provides essential habitat for a diverse array of plants and wildlife of the Great Lakes Coastal Marsh ecosystem in which it is situated. It is also adjacent to COL's Louis J. Sima Marsh Preserve.

So why would one land conservancy transfer protected property to another? If it is already protected, isn’t that enough? Land conservancies are all pursuing a common goal--to facilitate conservation in their communities. So we are always eager to work together towards that end, and to help each other out wherever we can. Land transfers are one way we do that. It works for everyone, allowing land conservancies to share and manage resources efficiently with local knowledge to provide the best care of our properties, and to ensure the most benefit to our communities.

Did you know? 

Robinson Woods PreserveGrand Beach Marsh Preserve and Dayton Wet Prairie Preserve were land transfers from The Nature Conservancyto COL. The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization that is actively protecting land in over 72 countries, and they frequently transfer protected properties to established land trusts to ensure proper care, conservation, and restoration work is accomplished at a local level.

Interested in helping protect our local land? Become a COL volunteer! Contact the COL office for volunteer opportunities or attend one of stewardship workdays.