Chocolay preserve officially protected

A view from the Chocolay Nature Preserve. (Photo courtesy of Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy)

A view from the Chocolay Nature Preserve. (Photo courtesy of Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy)

Nature-lovers on the east end of Marquette County can rejoice, after the recent announcement by the Chocolay Bayou Preservers that the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy is now the owner of approximately 13 acres of diverse riverfront habitat on the Chocolay Bayou.

Located between Marquette and Harvey, near the mouth of the Chocolay River, the UPLC will protect this land in perpetuity.

According the conservancy, this ecologically sensitive and historically important area will be of large benefit to the public, though its preservation was by no means a singular effort on the part of the UPLC.

“Protecting the Chocolay Bayou forever as a nature preserve has been a real community effort with support from over 20 organizations and donations from hundreds of individuals who know and love this wild gem in our backyard,” said UPLC Executive Director Chris Burnett.

A view from the Chocolay Nature Preserve. (Photo courtesy of Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy)

A view from the Chocolay Nature Preserve. (Photo courtesy of Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy)

Two small foot trails are planned, with connections to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and a small parking lot on Main Street, and a carry-in canoe launch is planned for non-motorized paddlers to get on the water. The trails will include signage designed by local artists with information on the diverse ecosystem and significant history of the bayou, and will be maintained for passive public recreation as a quiet sanctuary to escape the bustle of the growing cities of Marquette and Harvey.

The Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve is already a popular birding and wildlife-watching area and will be an ideal spot to conduct environmental education, research, and restoration, according to the conservancy.

The “Preservers” are a group of representatives from several local organizations and businesses and concerned local citizens who have been working over the last two years to raise more than $175,000 to purchase the property and maintain it for the future. This project has the support of more than 20 local and national organizations, such as Trout Unlimited and Chocolay Township, and is funded by the generosity of nearly 200 individual donors and businesses as well as grants from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition and the Hirvonen Foundation.

The Chocolay Bayou is considered an ecologically sensitive area because of its startlingly diverse range of habitats and types of plants and animals. The wetlands portion has been an important stopover for migrating birds, particularly waterfowl, for thousands of years and will remain so with the protection of this land. Mink, muskrat, herons, bald eagles, otters and many songbirds all call this small paradise home, even with its proximity to US-41 and the centers of both Marquette and Harvey.

The history of the Bayou Preserve runs deep, as the Bayou marked a line between the 1836 Washington Treaty and 1847 La Pointe Treaties that were major steps in the United States’ gain of political control of the State of Michigan as it stands today. The Bayou Preserve was also the site of one of the first steam-powered sawmills in the area, once held charcoal kilns, and the historic Harvey House still overlooks a portion of the Bayou.

A celebration and dedication is planned for Saturday, September 10. A ceremony will take place at the preserve, located off of Main Street in Harvey, with tentative plans to move the party across the street to the Chocolay River Brewery and Restaurant.

A forum will be held later in the fall for public input on management at the preserve.

A view from the Chocolay Nature Preserve. (Photo courtesy of Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy)

A view from the Chocolay Nature Preserve. (Photo courtesy of Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy)

For more information on the Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve, the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, or on joining the Chocolay Bayou Preservers in its mission to protect and care for the Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve into the future, visit www.uplandconservancy.com or call or email UPLC at (906) 225-8067 oruplc@uplandconservancy.org

MM

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