Harbor Springs: The Little Traverse Conservancy is announcing one of the most exciting community projects in its history around Little Traverse Bay, made possible by significant gifts from local foundations and donors. The protection of the 280-acre former Little Traverse Bay Golf Club property was finalized on April 22 (Earth Day). Grants from the Offield Family Foundation and others and the support of LTC’s membership have allowed the Conservancy staff to complete this project. The property is located between Harbor Springs, Alanson, Petoskey, and a short drive from many Up North communities.
The new Offield Family Viewlands Working Forest Reserve location is best known by people who visited it in its former life as a restaurant and golf course. The property had recently been closed as a business and purchased by a real estate investor. The Conservancy approached that investor to inquire about a sale that would allow it to be protected permanently. A tight timeline for the resale made the purchase uncertain until the Offield Family Foundation gift was pledged. “We cannot overstate the impact that the Offield family and its foundation has had on the protection of our region’s lands,” said Conservancy Executive Director Kieran Fleming.
“This was an incredible opportunity that challenged us in both new and familiar ways,” Fleming added. “We could not have considered it without the generosity of the Offield family and the commitment of our annual members who make our daily work possible. The total cost of this project is $2 million. The Offield gift and an additional $105,000 pledge made by anonymous donors allowed us to secure a loan to close on the purchase. However, we are still seeking $395,000 in donor support to allow us to pay off the loan and move ahead with plans to restore the property to a natural condition and give access to our community.”
And the most remarkable feature is its extraordinary views of Little Traverse Bay and the Inland Waterway. “The views are just awe-inspiring, and we are so excited to make them available to everyone,” said Caitlin Donnelly, the Conservancy’s Director of Land Protection. “From the highest points of this land – which are not much lower than the highest points of our local ski resorts— you have a bird’s eye view of the bay from roughly 1.5 miles away.”
“Working with the Little Traverse Conservancy has always been a top priority of our family,” said Jim Offield. His father, Wrigley “Bud” Offield, was on the Conservancy’s original board of trustees in the 1970s. Bud and his wife Eddi also donated the land where the Conservancy office has sat for decades. “It is an honor to work on a cause that offers continued comfort, beauty, and health for this region that many of us deeply love.”
Because the transaction is so current, future management plans for our care of the property and its accompanying buildings are uncertain. “Northern Michigan residents and visitors alike will soon be able to explore this beautiful place, but we are taking this quarantine time to thoroughly evaluate all of the many options we have for keeping this land open and available for the public,” said LTC Director of Stewardship Derek Shiels. “As we develop our future management activities, we are looking forward to opening up the trails and multiple views to the public. Our utmost concern is the safety of the public and the health of the land.”
The total cost of this project is $2 million. The Offield Family Foundation gift and additional donor gifts allowed us to secure a loan to close on the purchase. However, we are still seeking $336,000 in donor support to pay off the loan and move ahead with plans to restore the property to a natural condition and give maintain access to our community.