We Did it! Chocolay Bayou Preserve Officially Protected

What a journey the Chocolay Bayou Preserve Project has been! Over the past year, The Preservers have been learning more than we ever thought we would have to about the DEQ and Army Corps of Engineers regulations on Lake Superior Bottomlands, railroad right-of-ways that have been abandoned for almost one hundred years but are still retained, how complicated survey work really is, and—even though we truly believed we knew a LOT about easements going into this situation—we have learned so much about what easements the UPLC can and cannot accept on a Nature Preserve in order to truly…well…preserve it.

When UPLC closed on the Bayou purchase this afternoon, we technically purchased 3 parcels of land adding up to 12.886 acres.  Two of those parcels, , are now legally combined into 12.357 acres and are what we’re considering to be “the Preserve”, and the third, a tiny strip of land that we call “C,” we will be divesting as soon as we can, due to the easements that come along with it. In order to purchase the Preserve, we had to purchase C—the parcels were only to be sold to us as a unit. C is 0.529 acres, a thin rectangular strip that borders a small portion of the Preserve and has easements that allow the neighbor to store dumpsters and tractors and block access to the other parcels at all times. It would be impossible for us to monitor and impose ecological standards on this property and these allowances truly detract from the ecological value of the Preserve.  It is our hope that the neighbors, who currently hold the easements, will want C.

The land in the Preserve has been surveyed by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine what portions of the Bayou are part of the Lake Superior Bottomlands—land that is protected by the DEQ  with very strong environmental regulations. This is incredible news!  This means that the waterway of most of the Preserve is protected even more than we would be able to protect it on our own, and the DEQ’s protections extend from the Bayou out into the big lake.  Here’s what the DEQ’s website says about the Lake Superior Bottomlands:

“Michigan’s Submerged Lands Program began in 1955 with the passage of the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, 1955 PA 247, as amended, which is now incorporated as 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA), 1994 PA 451, as amended.

The bottomlands of the Great Lakes are held in trust by the State of Michigan for use and enjoyment by its citizens. The State, as the owner and trustee, has a perpetual responsibility to the public to manage these bottomlands and waters for the prevention of pollution, for the protection of the natural resources and to maintain the public’s rights of hunting, fishing, navigation, commerce, etc. The State of Michigan’s authority to protect the public’s interest in the bottomlands and waters of the Great Lakes is based on both ownership and state regulation. The Public Trust Doctrine, as the basis for Part 325, provides state authority to not only manage but also to protect the public’s fundamental rights to use these resources.

Michigan courts have determined that private uses of the bottomlands and waters, including the riparian rights of waterfront property owners, are subject to the public trust. In other words, if a proposed private use would adversely impact the public trust, the State of Michigan’s regulatory authority requires that the proposal be modified or denied altogether in order to minimize those impacts.”



At this point, we have made headway into the Stewardship (or “Forever”) fund—but not much.  The celebration on September 10th will not be a fundraiser—simply a way to say thank you to the community for their support and efforts turning this Preserve Project into a true Nature Preserve. We do still need to raise approximately $15,000 more to support the perpetual maintenance of the preserve as well as to build trails, install signs, establish a parking area, and more. We’ll get back to that later, though.  For now, we’re just celebrating two years of hard work finally coming to completion. We’ll be raising our glasses at the Chocolay River Brewing Company soon to cheers one another, and we hope you’ll join us at some point so we can say thanks in person.

A celebration and dedication is planned for Saturday, September 10th and a public forum will be held this fall for public input on trail access for the Preserve. For more information on the Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve, the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, or on joining the Chocolay Bayou Preservers in their mission to protect and care for the Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve into the future, please call or email the UPLC at (906) 225-8067 or uplc@uplandconservancy.org  An official press release can be found here.

Good work, everyone. Job Well Done.


2 Responses to “We Did it! Chocolay Bayou Preserve Officially Protected”

  1. Jan Sabin Says:

    Great work, wonderful place. I live on Fairbanks, a block from the access and just beyond the land being protected. Please contact me if you start to put together volunteer work crews, etc. I’m a retired teacher and may be able to contribute something. I love this bayou!

  2. uplc@uplandconservancy.org Says:

    Jan–Thanks for your support of this project! It’s been such a pleasure getting to know folks like you who are so in love with this special place. We would love to talk with you more about volunteering in many different forms…Check your email!

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