This time of year, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't enjoy basking in the glory of Michigan's many natural wonders. Now, you could help the effort to preserve and add to the Flower Creek Dunes Nature Reserve.
The Land Conservancy of West Michigan, a nonprofit land trust, has announced a campaign to purchase 43 acres of forested backdune habitat adjacent to its Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve, which was first protected in 2012 and later expanded in 2017. To purchase the land from the current owner, the organization needs to raise $200,000.
The addition would more than double the size of Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve, currently consisting of 31 acres of pristine Lake Michigan shoreline and dunes located in northern Muskegon County.
"In 2017, the community helped us 'double the dunes' at Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve," said Joe Engel, Executive Director, Land Conservancy of West Michigan. "Now, we are asking them to 'back the dunes' and protect the beautiful forest that lies beyond the preserve."
The property is owned by Douglas Paprocki, who purchased the land with his late wife Gretchen in 1994. The couple worked with the Land Conservancy then to protect the private property with a conservation easement. Now, Paprocki would like to sell the land to the Land Conservancy to add to the scenic Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve.
"Doug and Gretchen Paprocki have been diligent stewards of this critically important landscape for over two decades," Engel said. "We are grateful for the opportunity to be handed the torch and carry their legacy forward."
Lake Michigan shoreline is in high demand for development and increasingly difficult to protect, but its globally rare freshwater dunes host unique and imperiled plant and wildlife species. The backdunes, protected by the Paprocki's property, make up the stable, hardwood-forested complement to the sandy open dunes along the coast. The habitat is used by migrating animals like butterflies, hawks, and songbirds, who rest and feed in its shelter as they travel along the Great Lake coast, with 75% percent of the property being designated by the state as critical dunes.
"This biologically and topographically diverse property fulfills several of the Land Conservancy's strategic conservation objectives to protect land resilient to climate change on the Lake Michigan shoreline," said April Scholtz, Land Protection Director, Land Conservancy of West Michigan. "The addition of these backdunes would ensure that an indispensable natural connection within the landscape is protected forever."
Together with Meinert County Park and Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve, this property would create a total of 255 acres of connected and permanently protected natural land on the Lake Michigan shoreline.
An anonymous donor has generously offered $80,000 in matching funds to amplify the impact of the first donors to this project. If you'd like to donate to the project, visit Land Conservancy of West Michigan.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.
Photos courtesy of Land Conservancy of West Michigan.