From our 2005 Annual Report
CBS Sunday Morning News Correspondent Martha Teichner has been all over the world. But there is no more important place to her than the cedar-and-tamarack-tangled shores of Lime Lake where she spent the first 10 years of her life.
Nearly a decade ago, the Emmy-winning newswoman donated 20 acres near the lake to the Leelanau Conservancy, a place now known as the Conservancy’s Teichner Preserve. Today she is helping to double the amount of land protected – even taking out a home equity loan to help make it happen – to preserve a place that she says is the “essence of who I am today.”
Teichner’s lead donation will help to purchase 9 acres, including 200 feet of natural shoreline and wetlands critical to the health of Lime Lake that had been slated for residential development. Another 8 acres connecting the two parcels will be donated by Jean Raymond of Grand Rapids and Lime Lake.
The newly expanded Teichner Preserve is just a stone’s throw from Sugarloaf and the King’s Challenge golf course. Martha Teichner happened to be up visiting in 1996 when the golf course was under construction. “I could hear the whine of bulldozers and of earth being moved,” she recalls. “And I thought: ‘Oh no. I’ve got to do something to create a buffer between this development and the lake.’”
She happened to be up on a speaking engagement at the Leelanau School, who was inducting her late father into the school’s hall of fame. Hans “Peppi” Teichner is best known locally for having taught a region to ski – everyone from Helen Milliken to children with disabilities – and as one of the founders of Sugarloaf. But his history before coming to this country is equally as compelling. Peppi was a national ski champion from Germany – and a Jew –who was coaching the Spanish Olympic Team when Hitler rose to power.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he helped guide those who were fleeing Franco’s fascist regime over the mountains to France. A patrol spotted him, but he managed to out-ski his would-be captors. Still, his face ended up on wanted posters in the Pyranees Mountains, which forced him to seek haven in the U.S. When World War II broke out he helped train U.S. Army troops in the 10th Mountain Division.
Ultimately, after the war and stints teaching skiing in Sun Valley and Aspen, he settled in Leelanau. An army buddy had convinced him to come help plan a ski area that would one day become Sugar Loaf Mountain.
For Martha, Lime Lake and the 10 years she spent in Leelanau with her parents, both of whom have passed on, are indelibly etched in her heart. She remembers “the sound of the wind in the trees, and lying on the grass and watching birds build their nests. It was a very wild place, with bear and deer wandering around,” she says. “It was beautiful, a very magical place. In its wild state it is the essence of who I am and everything my parents were. I don’t believe I would be the person I am today if I hadn’t lived there.”
All she ever wanted was for the land to stay wild. She says the bulldozers jolted her into calling the Conservancy to learn about how she might donate land she had no intention of developing and had been paying taxes on for years. “My hope was that it would be a catalyst to encourage other longtime landowners to give easements so that the lands would remain wooded,” adds Martha.
Last summer, as fate would have it, Martha made another visit to Lime Lake. She learned that a 9-acre parcel on the lake—a place where her parents once took moonlit strolls through to the lake for midnight swims–might be available. “It was almost like the land and my parents were calling to me from beyond,” she says. “The instant I heard about it I could not stop thinking about it. I thought, ‘If I don’t do it I’ll never forgive myself.”
She and Conservancy Land Protection Specialist Tom Nelson worked together, and Tom negotiated with the landowner on a price to purchase the property. The landowner, who had significant funds invested in developing the property, also acknowledged the natural beauty of the land and was willing to work with Tom to reach a satisfactory agreement. Tom also worked closely with neighboring landowner, Jean Raymond. Jean generously offered to donate 8 acres of land between the existing Preserve and the property to be purchased, and by doing so will receive some important tax benefits from her donation of land.
“It was a great opportunity for us to do what we do best, pair people’s passions with solutions that are good for the landowner and good for the land and the watershed,” says Tom. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to be a part of something that will go a long way to permanently protect the wetlands and shoreline that ensure the high water quality of such a natural beauty as Lime Lake. To forever preserve this wild land as a legacy of the Teichner and Raymond families is at the very core of what we do. It can’t help but touch your heart and lift your spirit.”
“If you have the opportunity to do something good in your life it is just so important to me to take advantage of that opportunity,” says Martha. “The only reason I have always envied the wealthy is for having the ability to gather the resources to do good work. To pass up this opportunity to me would be a sin.” Teichner stresses that her generous gift of $200,000 was not something she would have even considered had it not been to purchase this property so that it will forever be preserved under the Conservancy’s watch. “I’m still saving for retirement and had to take out a home equity loan to pull it all together,” she says. “But it means that much to me.”
When she learned that Jean Raymond was willing to donate 8 acres that would tie together her first donation and the second project, she said, “To put almost all of what we had back together again, I can’t tell you how happy that has made me. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”
“We’re incredibly lucky to have people like Martha Teichner and Jean Raymond in our midst,” says Conservancy Director Brian Price. “Because they have this sort of passion for the land, and are willing to go to such lengths to help protect a place they love so much, future generations will be able to share the magic.”
The Leelanau Conservancy is currently fundraising for the $190,000 still needed to complete the project. Plans call for the 37-acre Preserve to be open to the public as a place for quiet enjoyment and guided hikes.
Martha Teichner has been a correspondent for CBS News Sunday Morning based in New York since December 1994. Her work has been recognized with four Emmy Awards, for reports on Princess Diana’s death, the Detroit newspaper strike and a factory workers’ lawsuit against the Maytag Company. Teichner also interviewed First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton for Sunday Morning in 1995 and 1997. Read her essay which can be found in the News & Publications section of this website.