In quiet corners of Drummond Island, the second largest freshwater island in the United States, staff at the Little Traverse Conservancy are working to protect the shoreline and other parcels from development, turning privately donated lands into public nature preserves.
The island off the eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula is accessed by a short ferry ride from De Tour Village. If you do not know of it, you should find out more. Drummond is known for its laid-back style and special outdoor attractions: clear blue boating waters; quality bird, deer and bear hunting; inland and big lake fishing; a kayaking trail; fascinating geology; fossils; birdwatching; and an expansive network of off-road and all-terrain vehicle trails.
Two-thirds of the island is state owned public land. Another 1,210 acres, the Maxton Plains Preserve, a rare alvar ecosystem, is owned and protected by The Nature Conservancy. Those and other attractions increasingly bring visitors to the island where land is being sold and homes are being built.
The conservancy’s mission is protecting biodiversity and northern Michigan beauty. Shoreline property is a top priority, according to staffers, and the nonprofit is working to expand holdings in the eastern Upper Peninsula.
“The majority of the properties we have come to us from landowners, most are donations,” explained Caitlin Donnelly, director of land protection for the Harbor Springs-based conservancy. LTC was formed in 1972. It has protected 62,812 acres in northern Michigan to date. That includes protecting more than 270 private properties with conservation easements and creating more than 200 nature preserves that are open to the public.
Four of those preserves are now on Drummond Island. “We started (a long time ago) in Emmet County where there are a lot of private communities along the water. We protect land for people,” said Donnelly. “It’s not that we protect every parcel; we try to protect larger parcels that have public access.”
Those are parcels that might well have been sold to private landowners who would have shut the public out. Clark Island Preserve is LTC’s most recent acquisition on Drummond. Acquired in 2019, the 15-acre preserve has 1,300 feet of Lake Huron frontage. In 2018, LTC secured the 60-acre Forsland Dix Point Preserve with 1,800 feet of frontage on the St. Mary’s River. Its 80-acre Clyde and Martha Williams Nature Preserve is inland with a nice forest hiking trail. LTC’s Curtis and Margaret Anderson preserve offers 46 acres to explore.
Nearby, on the mainland, just down the road from De Tour, the 145-acre Detour Peninsula Nature Preserve juts down into Lake Huron providing visitors more than 3 miles of Lake Huron shoreline. It is the outcome of an anonymous donation in 2011. It also is listed as a stop on the North Huron Birding Trail, a great spot to see migrating shorebirds, songbirds, raptors and waterfowl.
Donnelly said no other area properties are in the pipeline right now, but staff always are ready to listen and discuss the options that are open to landowners. For more information see landtrust.org. ≈
Howard Meyerson is the managing editor of Michigan BLUE Magazine.