You already know visitors come from all over the world to experience the recreational opportunities and breathtaking natural scenery of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. But did you know that Leelanau County is also home to many other public natural areas and preserves—most open to hiking, canoeing, sightseeing and hunting opportunities—thanks to the work the Leelanau Conservancy?

Here’s the scoop of the grand opening of the Conservancy’s largest land protection project ever—Palmer Woods Forest Reserve—and why a visit should be on your to-do list in 2016.  

Since 1988, preserving the land, water and scenic character of Leelanau County has been the primary mission of the Leelanau Conservancy. Thanks to charitable donors from private landowners and the work of hundreds of volunteers, the organization has worked to preserve over 11,000 acres of forests, farm country and shoreline. To encourage the public to visit and explore these beautiful scenic spaces, the Conservancy has created a guide to the 24 natural areas under the nonprofit’s management umbrella. Click here to check it out.

Last month, Conservancy Executive Director Tom Nelson announced the latest property now open for the public to enjoy. And it’s a great one.

“The new Palmer Woods Forest Reserve holds much promise for recreation in all four seasons,” says Nelson. “At the moment, we have marked two trails for cross-country skiers, hikers and snowshoers to enjoy. This spring we hope to expand the trail system further.”

Located just over a mile from Big Glen Lake and just beyond the bluff that marks the western edge of Miller Hill, the 707-acre Palmer Woods Forest Reserve is the largest and most expensive land protection project in the Conservancy’s 27-year history. These spectacular forestlands will help protect the water quality of Glen Lake and will also allow ecologically sustainable forestry practices to strengthen this quintessentially Michigan northern hardwood forest.

According to Nelson, the project would not have been possible without overwhelming community support. Nearly 600 families contributed. Nelson gave a special thanks to the Palmer family. The Conservancy partnered with the Palmers for over two decades with the goal of keeping this forest intact.

To celebrate the reserve’s grand opening, Nelson will be leading a hike at Palmer Woods during Earth Week along with a special dedication currently planned for this summer. Go to the for more details. 

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