$1.4M “Gift” from Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation

“Whitmore Lake Preserve” is 2nd Largest in the County

by David Gordon


WLPreserve cattails 320w261hThe Planning Commission on Dec. 16th was presented with an early holiday package from Washtenaw County….a 235-acre nature preserve within easy walking distance of Whitmore Lake residents.  

The “Whitmore Lake Preserve” is expected to open this summer once a four-space parking lot is constructed and 2 ½ miles of paths are cleared, according to Peter Sanderson, county parks planner with the Natural Areas Preservation Program (NAPP).  (northfieldneighbors.today will keep you informed when the park opens)  

        Sanderson called the preserve one of the “gems” of the county park system. He explained the preserve is different from a park because it will not have soccer or ball fields, swing sets or picnic areas. The preserve is for hiking only.

        “This preserve will be an interesting experience, especially for bird watchers. There are wetlands, grasslands, mixed hardwoods and great views of open water,” said Sanderson. “Your township manager Howard Fink said he’s seen bald eagles while walking the area. We also hope to interface with local school children,” he added.

        Planning Commission Chair Marlene Chockley said “the preserve is a fabulous natural area with educational, recreational, and environmental value. I applaud the County's foresight in preserving it for us and future generations."       

The county Natural Areas millage raises a little more than $3 million a year for park purchases and maintenance. It bought the 235 acres for about $1.4 million in 2012 from the Ramsey, Lipert and Carr families.WLPreserve SiteBounds 255w300h

        “The county doesn’t seek out property to buy. It accepts nominations from landowners,” explained County Park Dep. Director Coy Vaughn. “The process is largely independent from the township. We contact townships to see if they have objections and whether the preserve will fit within their respective Master Plan,” he continued.

        Vaughn said the County does a survey every five years as part of their Master Plan review process. “Folks are asked about where to spend our money, and are given the chance to vote for rec centers, golf courses, disc golf, playgrounds, ball fields and other recreational facilities.

        “They consistently pick trails and open space as their #1 and #2 priorities” he said.

        “Only about half of the nominated properties get approved in a process that includes a site visit from a seven-member technical advisory committee,” Vaughn continued. “We also coordinate with the Ann Arbor Greenbelt, Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy, Legacy Land Conservancy and the three townships (Webster, Scio & Salem) that have adopted their own millages to support land conservation.”

        At 235 acres, the preserve is the second largest in Washtenaw County behind a 407-acre property in Manchester. The preserve joins two other smaller properties in the township – 12-acre Northfield Park is the smallest and was established when the Parks Commission was first formed in 1973 - the other is 48-acre Northfield Woods Preserve.

        You can view the entire inventory of county parks and preserves by visiting www.ewashtenaw.org

        Vaughn invited anyone interested in selling their property to contact Tom Freeman or Ginny Trocchio at 734-971-6337.