Leelanau Conservancy Names Volunteer and Business Supporter of the Year at Annual Picnic
Since its founding in 1988, volunteers have been critical to the success of the Leelanau Conservancy, bringing time, talent and expertise to help in the Conservancy’s mission to conserve the land, water and scenic character of Leelanau County. This year the organization recognized stewardship volunteers Al Swiderski and Dave Coyne for leading the deck-building projects at the new Clay Cliffs Natural Area.
In addition to their work at Clay Cliffs, Al and Dave also built the boardwalk at Swanson Preserve. “Every time we have a construction need like this, we call these two skilled carpenters and they are always willing to help,” said Executive Director Tom Nelson. “They have also dug fence posts, put up signs, built benches—if it involves wood these two are nearly always involved.” Over the Conservancy’s 27-year history, volunteers have logged over 100,000 hours, worth over $1 million, Nelson added. Last year alone, over 350 volunteered for the Conservancy.
M22 was named Business Supporter of the Year. “Matt and Keegan Myers have built a business centered on getting folks out in nature, and celebrating and enjoying the places we protect,” said Nelson. “M22 and the Leelanau Conservancy are perfect partners because we both value the same things.” He called the company great ambassadors for the Conservancy to its customers and race participants, for collaborating to bring in new Conservancy members, and for donating a percentage of their sales each year to the Conservancy. In addition, the company donated four guaranteed slots to the 2016 M22 Challenge, which raised over $1,200 in the Auction.
Over 600 people attended the Picnic at Chippewa Run Natural Area in Empire featuring local food and wine, a Kids Tent and Silent Auction. Display co-chair Barbara Winkelman left her home near Glen Arbor to help set up the Auction. She and her husband, Eric, had been without power for days trees had fallen on their house and deck. “We’re grateful to Barbara and to our entire Auction Committee for presenting their unique and fantastic offerings,” said Nelson. Unique Leelanau experiences, dinners and great gifts made up the 150+ items, which raised over $70,000. Members pledged an additional $14,300 for the Palmer Woods project. Everyone who donated to Palmer Woods received a free pie courtesy of Grand Traverse Pie Co.
Nelson also recognized Beverage Tent sponsor Robert W. Baird’s Kiessel Rivard group of Traverse City for their years support. Baird volunteers poured wine throughout the evening as usual. The Fonte family won the Local Leelanau Door Prize, an array of locally produced foods and items meant to showcase all the great products that are made in Leelanau.
The devastating storm that hit nearby Glen Arbor just days earlier was a topic on everyone’s mind. Nelson began his remarks by expressing the Conservancy’s deep concern for everyone struggling in the aftermath, and hoping that the evening would provide many with a much-needed break. Pre-picnic hikes at the proposed Palmer Woods Forest Reserve had to be re-routed due to many fallen trees. The hikes gave participants a unique opportunity to observe the impacts of a major storm on a healthy forest, Nelson said.
It was Nelson’s first Annual Picnic as the Director. He lauded Founding Director, Brian Price for spearheading the Conservancy’s effort to preserve the 707-acre Palmer Woods Forest Reserve project. He also gave special mention to the Conservancy’s Finance Director, Susan Price, describing her 26-year tenure as “one of the best things to ever happen to the Conservancy.” Nelson concluded by thanking attendees for coming out to celebrate the successes of the past year and for their ongoing support.