Conservancy Day Draws Volunteers, Wine Enthusiasts, Hikers
Leelanau Conservancy Volunteer and Conservation Partner of the Year Named
On August 3rd, 2017, the Leelanau Conservancy hosted a lineup of activities aimed at celebrating that there’s no place like Leelanau. Members as well as the general public were invited to a number of events throughout “Conservancy Day,” including tours at three forever protected wineries and a volunteer activity.
The day began with a morning workbee at Chippewa Run Natural Area in Empire. Twenty volunteers turned out to pull the invasive autumn olive. This non-native shrub chokes out desirable native species and reduces the number of plants and animals that can thrive at Chippewa Run. Volunteers worked in pairs, using a tool called a weed wrench to pull out dozens of shrubs along the trail entrance. “In just two hours we had built a giant pile of autumn olive and opened up the view to a nearby creek,” says Natural Areas and Preserves Manager Becky Hill. “It was a terrific, hardworking group.”
Included was volunteer Martina Dorn of Empire. “We had a fun time working with other volunteers and were educated on how to use the weed wrench,” says Martina. “I will borrow one to start eliminating this invasive species on my own property!”
Three protected wineries offered free tours and talks throughout the day. 45 North, Brengman Brothers, and L. Mawby wineries hosted 170 people on outings that showcased these beautiful, forever-protected vineyards. Everyone was welcome to attend these free tours. Participants spent time with Conservancy staff, board members and Leelanau vintners while learning about everything from viticulture to solar panels to preserving family farms. After the tours, participants tasted the delicious fruit of the vine, with each winery donating proceeds from the sale of a special wine to the Conservancy.
Allan and Melissa Smith attended the first tour at 45 North. “We always just really enjoy everyone that we meet at Conservancy sponsored events,” says Allan. “And that was true of our hike at 45 North on Conservancy Day, where we learned about the importance of farmland preservation through conservation easements to maintain the scenic and bucolic nature of Leelanau County.”
In addition to the planned activities, the Conservancy also encouraged people to appreciate Leelanau in their own way, and to post about it on social media. Over 100 people did just that, including Scott Walters, who posted on Facebook: “We are up from Pittsburgh and are kayaking the Crystal River today! Thank you for all the great work you do keeping this place healthy.”
Unfortunately, a Members Appreciation Reception set for 4 pm at the Leland Village Green was rained out. Just as it was about to begin, the Leelanau Sheriff’s Office called Membership and Outreach Coordinator Gayle Egeler to warn of a severe storm with lightning heading straight toward the event. “With so much hard work and preparation by volunteers and staff, it was a very difficult decision to call it off, but safety comes first” says Executive Director Tom Nelson. “It was truly a disappointment to miss the chance to celebrate with the over 450 members who planned to attend.”
Nelson had planned to announce the Conservancy’s Volunteer and Conservation Partner of the Year at the gathering but because of the rainout the announcement was delayed. “I wish Chuck and Janet Dickerson could have received the round of applause they surely deserve on Conservancy Day. We are so grateful for their work,” says Nelson.
The Dickersons are passionate about native wildflowers and have been champions of the showy lady slipper orchid. In 2009 they collaborated with a plant biologist in Wisconsin to cross pollinate two plants from Leelanau. “The outcome was 700 seedlings—but growing wild orchids in non-wild conditions is really, really hard to do,” explains Nelson. Eight years later, only 70 plants survived, despite having been lovingly cared for year-round by the couple.
“This spring, Chuck brought the first blooming plant to our office–an amazing sight,” says Nelson. Chuck and Conservancy stewardship staff and volunteers have since transplanted the 70 seedlings at the Conservancy’s Soper Preserve near Northport. The orchids are protected with an eight-foot tall deer fence, which Chuck helped to install and the Dickersons generously funded. “You could say our showy lady slippers are simply gems—and so are Chuck and Janet,” adds Nelson.
The Conservancy also recognized the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (ISN) as its Conservation Partner of the Year. ISN provides invasive plant information, identification and treatment to both homeowners and to Conservancy staff and runs a “Go Beyond Beauty” Program. “The program recognizes and assists plant nurseries, professionals, homeowners and the Conservancy to sow native plants, which benefits and protects our region’s natural resources,” says Nelson. “Our region is viewed as a great example of championing its native species in large part due to fantastic work and collaborative efforts of the ISN.”