Chocolay Bayou Preserve Project Underway!

It all started several months ago, when rumors began flying about a beautiful piece of land that would be going up for sale soon.  The Audubon Society heard about it first – the spot is a popular one for local birders.  The Historical Society got interested next; as the Chocolay River is the boundary between the 1836 and 1842 Native American treaties and once held some early sawmills and charcoal kilns. It’s adjacent to the popular Iron Ore Heritage Trail and North Country Trail (combined at this location), and as the news spread, the groups who maintain those trails have  became involved in the quest to protect this land and create public access to it’s natural treasures. Soon the entire non-profit sector of Marquette and Harvey was all a-buzz with the news that a piece of land that interests us all was coming available.


A group of folks, loosely organized from various non profit groups with an interest in the property, began to meet  at the Bayou Restaurant and Chocolay River Brewery, just a short walk from the prospective preserve. We started calling ourselves “The Chocolay Bayou Preservers” – mostly because we think we are clever, also because, well, that’s what we wanted to do! This intrepid group has consisted of Jerry Maynard of the Chocolay Raptor Center, Scott Emerson of the Lakewood Cottagers Association, JD Forrester of the Alger Conservation District, Bruce Ventura of the Laughing Whitefish Audubon Society, Jeff Knoop of The Nature Conservancy, Darcy Rutkowski of the UPRC&D, Abbie Debiak of Superior Watershed Partnership, Allyson Dale of NCRS, Dane Cramer of Ducks Unlimited, Kelly Woodward of Chocolay township, and a few others from time to time as well as Chris Burnett and Andrea Denham of the UPLC.  It’s been a fun and informative time as we meet with everyone to discuss grants, fundraising, foundations, planning, preserving, promoting…and local craft beer.


But who would be the best to care for it, if we’ve all got an interest in it?  The group has decided the UP Land Conservancy is the organization best suited for perpetual stewardship of the Bayou Preserve.  UPLC is located right across the highway from the Bayou and its main purpose is the permanent legal protection of high value conservation lands.  We are happy to announce that UPLC, with the help of many other partnership organizations, has put forward an offer to purchase 14 acres of the Chocolay Bayou to protect forever as a nature preserve, easily accessible to the public, and set aside for the sake of our communities both natural and human.

So now we have until May 9th, 2016 to raise nearly $200,000 to pay for the land and to set up a stewardship fund to maintain the preserve in perpetuity.


Chocolay Bayou colors birds-1

To allow for easy public access, we will crate a parking lot and a boardwalk through the wetland.  We’d love to see a bird observation deck as well as some welcoming and fun informational signs throughout the preserve.  We hope to collaborate with Chocolay Township for maintaining facilities like trash collection and parking lot plowing and with all of the various groups and organizations involved to make this a place for the community to gather and learn from one another as well as from nature.  Expect to see field trips, bird observation, environmental education programs, and all sorts of fun things happening in the Bayou Preserve!

Chocolay Bayou Site Plan #1

This is our first site plan–flexible at this point, of course, but eventually (and depending on amount of donations we receive) we’d love to see multiple pathways allowing for a diversity of experiences to be had within this complex ecosystem, and for visitors to the preserve to be able to explore and connect with their natural surroundings…even in this urban area.

We are even starting to hear rumors about signs being donated to specify one of these trails as a bird-observation trail! Complete with interpretive signs explaining the importance of the bayou to migratory birds and waterfowl…but I’ll update you on that in our next blog about the Bayou.



So for now, the Preservers still meet at the Bayou Bar each month, and we discuss the same things: protection, promotion, fundraising. Outreach.  And craft beer from the brewery.

We received a grant from the North American Wetland Conservation Act for almost HALF of our fundraising needs! And other organizations are beginning to pledge support. Individual donors are starting to reach out, and foundations are being contacted. It’s starting to look real good around here! Want to join the fundraising excitement?

What’s next? A big Fundraising Concert with local favorites “Circle of Willis” on February 20th at the Bayou Bar and Grill and Chocolay River Brewery, of course! We’ll have a hike out to the Bayou at 6, with the concert and celebration of land protection to start at 7 pm.  Appetizers provided, local craft beer available for purchase, and a great, big goal to be reached!

Keep an eye out on the blog, on Facebook, Twitter, and the Website for more exciting updates, and come to our Annual Meeting on January 26th to listen to local experts share their knowledge of the Bayou’s historic significance, ecological importance, and geologic interest.


We are so excited, and we hope that you, as a member of this community, are excited along with us.




2 Responses to “Chocolay Bayou Preserve Project Underway!”

  1. Jim Ross Says:

    I Live directly across from the land in question on the bayou.

    I would like to get involved and offer donations to silent auction. my services and ability once land is purchased for labor in constructing trails and anything that has to do with this project.

    I would like to set a sit down meeting and have tried to call a few times and phone just rings. please contact me so I can be of service to this great project. jim Ross. 9906-360-3837

  2. Says:


    Thanks so much for contacting us! We’ve been having some trouble with our phones the last weeks while switching providers–should be fixed now, though. We will get a hold of you as soon as possible and truly look forward to meeting you in person to talk about this community project. Thanks again!

Leave a Reply