2008-03-20 / News

Birge Is One of Several Preserves Open in Area

An aerial image of the Birge Preserve on Point Brulee shows a proposed trail route through the property. The trail would start on Point Brulee Road, about one mile north of the existing trail and Birge Preserve sign. The new section will head west and wind through the woods, then make a rectangular loop to lead users back to the east/west trail. The conservancy plotted a portion of the trail along the "Old Wheel Road," the route of the first road into the area. (Little Traverse Conservancy image) An aerial image of the Birge Preserve on Point Brulee shows a proposed trail route through the property. The trail would start on Point Brulee Road, about one mile north of the existing trail and Birge Preserve sign. The new section will head west and wind through the woods, then make a rectangular loop to lead users back to the east/west trail. The conservancy plotted a portion of the trail along the "Old Wheel Road," the route of the first road into the area. (Little Traverse Conservancy image) A proposed new hiking trail at the Birge Preserve represents Little Traverse Conservancy's growing involvement in Clark Township, where it has protected almost 2,400 acres of land from development through preserves and conservation easements. Approximately 2,200 of the acreage is in preserves that are open to the public. Another 200 acres are in conservation easements that remain privately owned.

The Birge Preserve is one of the largest preserves in the Les Cheneaux Islands.

The others include the Seiberling Stewart, Aldo Leopold, and Sheppard-Hardy preserves on Marquette Island, Mackinac Bay Preserve in Hessel, and Derby Preserve in Cedarville. Conservation easements on several private properties permanently restrict or prevent development on those properties.

The public is allowed on the preserves, but not the private easements. Recreational, educational, and scientific use of the preserves is encouraged, as long as it does not interfere with the preservation and protection of the land.

Activities like hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fishing are allowed on the preserves. Hunting is allowed only on designated preserves and only with written permission. The designated preserves in Clark Township are the Birge, Aldo Leopold, Seiberling Stewart, and Sheppard-Hardy.

Snowmobiling, camping, making fires, dumping or littering, removing plants, and driving off-road vehicles on the preserves are not allowed. All dogs must be on a leash.

Coyote, deer, snowshoe hare, fox, grouse, red squirrel, and bobcats roam the Birge Preserve and approximately 250 bird species have been sighted over the years. Observers have documented a pair of bald eagles nesting in or near the Birge Preserve from 1995 to 2006, during which 15 young were produced. No nests were counted in 2007. Surveys are in winter or early spring, when eagles are nesting.

The 435-acre preserve is comprised of large parcels Little Traverse Conservancy purchased from the Mertaugh, Nye, and Wallace families, which have been added to 92 acres donated by Edna and Oliver Birge in 1992. The preserve includes 3.5-acre Loon Lake.

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