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Chikaming Open Lands acquires 108 acres for nature preserve

Posted on January 9, 2019

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UNION PIER — An 108-acre nature preserve will soon sit along Lakeside and Warren Woods Roads in Chikaming Township. 

In December, Elizabeth Leonard Rould donated the property to Chikaming Open Lands (COL) which will own and manage it as a nature preserve

“We were very excited to accept such an expansive tract of high-quality forest, particularly in such a desirable location,” said COL Executive Director Ryan Postema. “There aren’t many undeveloped forested properties of this size remaining in Chikaming Township, so we feel really fortunate to be able to protect it in its natural state.”

The land, which will be named  The Edward and Elizabeth Leonard Wildlife Preserve, consists of mature woodland, wetlands and agricultural land that COL will open to the public in the future. 

The new preserve, the organization’s 14th in the area, is in close proximity to other protected properties like Chikaming Township Park and Preserve and COL’s Merritt Family Preserve.

Postema said that connecting natural areas like this creates greenways that are beneficial to protecting natural habitat for wildlife.

Rould and her late husband, Ed Leonard, lived on the property for 30 plus years. She said she spent much of her time there walking the woods with her dogs, observing the wildlife.

“It’s very important to me to know that other people, young and old, will be able to walk through it and really enjoy it just as I did,” said Rould. “Living there was a gift to me. I wanted to make a gift back to the community, for the enjoyment of everyone.”

COL serves nine townships in southwest Berrien County.

In November last year, COL acquired a 49-acre property with frontage on the Galien River. It’s dedicated in memory of late director Chris Thompson, who died in 2016. The property is along Warren Woods Road between Warren Woods State Park and Chikaming Township Park and Preserve.

In August 2017, the COL got another 34 acres of land along Mydra Road, next to Chikaming Township Park.

In all, COL has been instrumental in preserving more than 1,900 acres of open space since its founding in 1999.