Growing up on a farm just a couple of minutes’ walk from Lake Charlevoix has been a privilege the Olstrom family has enjoyed for four generations. Their story on this land began in 1898 when August and Augusta Leu purchased a farm just inland from the south arm of Lake Charlevoix, a region which was the logging settlement of Dwight’s Landing. (Remnants from the sawmill can be found on the land today, including old dock pylons pictured below.)
In September 1934, the Leu’s daughter, Anne, married Bill Olstrom of Advance, and the young couple began farming across the road from the homestead where Anne was raised. Since then, their children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren have enjoyed this piece of northern Michigan heaven in various ways.
Over the years, the Olstrom family have been approached with many offers to sell their land— but they didn’t. The land is so much more than a financial asset to the two sisters and two brothers who can finish each other’s sentences. This is where their children have learned to swim, fish, and hunt. Old submerged lumber was pulled from the water and incorporated into various projects. They played in the same creek that once kept the milk cold for the people of Dwight. For years after Grandpa Bill died in 1969, the family would gather every weekend at Anne’s.
As one of her granddaughters recalls, “Friday night usually was the adults at the kitchen table and the kids in the back room singing to the old 45s and eating popcorn out of colored bowls. As we grew older, we ventured further; we quit singing in the barn and started singing around the campfire. At any gathering, you could easily pick Grama out of the crowd— she always wore her hat to the lake.”
In late December, the Conservancy purchased 17 acres from the Olstrom siblings: Louise Vanderlaan, Neil Olstrom, Bill Olstrom, and
Susan Vrondran. The purchase was made possible with a grant from the Charles M. and Joan R. Taylor Foundation. The Taylor Family was a long-time owner in Charlevoix’s Belvedere Club. Though they no longer visit the region, the family still has an affinity for preserving Lake Charlevoix and its watershed. The new preserve will be known as the Charles M. Taylor III Nature Preserve, as a memorial for the son of Charles and Joan Taylor.
In addition to the land protected through purchase, the Olstrom siblings donated a 100-foot waterfront lot adjacent to the new preserve. The adjoining parcel will be known as the Olstrom Family Nature Preserve in memory of their parents. “We know that leaving this land just the way it is was something our mother had hoped would happen,” Susan said. “And now that it is over, we feel like it was the best possible option that we had.”
“This is Little Traverse Conservancy’s first shoreline purchase on Lake Charlevoix and is the essence of what the Conservancy is all about,” said Ty Ratliff, the Conservancy land protection specialist. He worked with the Olstroms for several years. “Throughout the process, the family kept saying, “once it is gone, it is gone,” a phrase that had meaning at many different levels. Having the land as a permanent nature preserve ensures that their family and many others can enjoy its unique attributes forever.”
The new preserve complex lies along Peninsula Road in South Arm Township. It includes an upland red pine plantation that slopes down to an open field. Between the area and the lake lies a pretty cedar wetland where artifacts from the logging settlement can be found. For more information about the new preserves, please call our office at (231) 347-0991.