An Addiction to Leelanau County - The Leelanau Conservancy

An Addiction to Leelanau County


Boyd 4Jack and Gretchen Boyd bought a condominium in Traverse City three years ago and moved from their home in southern Michigan to be closer to their grandchildren. At the time, they knew nothing about the Leelanau Conservancy, and very little about Leelanau County.

Finding Their Place

Both are retired: Gretchen was a psychologist and Jack a dentist. They had vacationed for years at their cabin on Sugar Island along the St. Mary’s River. They never thought they would sell it, but when a friend approached them about buying it, they thought, why not. Going back and forth was wearing on them and so they agreed to sell. Jack is a longtime hunter and fisherman, however and soon began surfing the web, looking for vacant land they could recreate on–a place they could run their dog, Basil, and enjoy being outdoors.

What is a Conservation Buyer Property?

“But the per-acre prices out in Leelanau were pretty expensive,” says Jack. And then he stumbled upon a Leelanau Conservancy conservation buyer listing called “Cedar Run Creek.”

The Conservancy had purchased the 30-acre parcel in 2014 to protect 1,300 feet of pristine frontage along Cedar Run Creek, a primary tributary flowing into South Lake Leelanau. The land also features numerous groundwater springs and upland forest with towering hemlock and white pines.

On occasion, the Conservancy will buy a property like this and re-list it, conditioned on the new owners placing a conservation easement on the property at closing. (In this case, the easement calls for one home site away from the creek.) By reselling the land to conservation minded buyers like Boyds, it keeps land on the tax rolls, in private hands, and allows the Conservancy to reinvest funds in other projects. “It’s a win win,” says Matt. “We get to protect the conservation values and the new owners have this beautiful, pristine place to enjoy nature in.”Boyd stream 1

Getting to Know the LC

“I started reading your website and thought it was such a neat concept,” says Jack. “We loved that this sort of thing was possible.” The land, as it turns out, was just six miles from their condo. They toured the Solon Township property with a Realtor and fell in love with it.

The Boyds visit the property often with their daughter, Sara, husband Peter Payette, and three grandchildren. Gretchen created the signs that are nailed to a few trees that say “Unplugged Area.” “When we’re here, phones and tablets get put away,” she says. “We look up at the trees, not down at our phones.”

Comparing the Creeks

While he was still working, Jack often fished on Black Creek, a tributary of the Raisin River in Ohio. “It was once clear, but is now nothing but a pothole, ruined by runoff from nearby farms,” he says. “When I walk out here, and see these well springs feeding Cedar Creek, well it doesn’t get much better than that.”

There is an old log cabin on the property that the family may use as a sort of bunkhouse. Debra Benton, whose family once owned this land, is thrilled to see the property has been preserved. “It was in my family for generations,” she says. “I would never want to see it any way but in its natural state.” When she was a little girl, her family vacationed in the tiny cabin, coming north on U.S. 27 from Detroit. Her father, a construction worker, built the porch addition and she recalls helping to strip the logs.

Why Jack’s Addicted to Leelanau

Jack says he’s amazed that such a place exists just a short drive from their condo. And he’s amazed by Leelanau County in general. “I love it,” he enthuses. “I call it my addiction. There’s so much scenery with the hills, the spring blossoms. To me it’s a breathtaking place. I had no clue. Look at all you can do—kayak, sail, fish, hunt, go to the beach…it’s just a very unique area.”