Natural Partners: Van Zoerens Preserve 30 Acres Near Glen Lake
From our 2009 Summer Newsletter
Tom and Alice Van Zoeren are the kind of people who work at preserving things that otherwise might slip away. Piping plovers. Port Oneida history. Ridgeline views seen from Glen Lake. The Burdickville couple, who are naturalists in profession as well as in spirit, have permanently protected 20 acres near Glen Lake through a bargain sale of development rights. At the same time, Tom’s brother, Doug, also protected his adjacent 10 acres. The Van Zoeren complex takes in part of the Hatlem Creek Watershed as well as a ridgeline that can be seen from Glen Lake. Habitat surrounding their home includes a fern-filled wetland, open farm field, and both moist and dry hardwood forest. Even better, their land backs up to Chip and Shirley Hoagland’s 47 acres of protected land along Bow Road, making for a 77-acre swath within the Glen Lake Watershed.
Protecting their land was a natural choice for Alice and Tom, who have spent their careers helping others to appreciate the joys and wonders found in the great outdoors. Tom is a retired Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore park ranger. And Alice has long worked in interpretation for both the Park and Glen Lake Schools. Conservancy members have been the beneficiaries of Alice’s vast knowledge, especially her knowledge of birds. She has led many hikes at our Natural Areas in her role as a Conservancy Docent.
Alice’s work now has taken her to the shoreline of North Manitou, where she backpacks in to monitor the endangered piping plover nests and fledglings on the island. Alice’s work and that of other scientists has helped to dramatically increase plover populations.
Since retiring from the Park, Tom works as a volunteer to record the history of settlers at Port Oneida, both in written and oral form, for Park archives. “It would be a shame to have preserved the place, but lose the history,” he says. His own history in the area goes back to his childhood. “I have extended family all around the lake,” he says. “Our family has been summering on Glen Lake for generations.” Retirement has also allowed him to expand his organic garden and he sells the overflow under a tent along Bow Road.
The tent is just a stone’s throw from the protected wetland, where American redstarts sing and goshawks nest amid the many little springs. “The wetland is pretty intact with native vegetation and not a whole lot of invasives. That’s kind of special in this day and age,” says Alice. So, we might add, are the Van Zoerens.