From the Beginning to the Present: A Brief History of Legacy Land Conservancy- Barry Lonik

Legacy Land Conservancy traces its origin—and that of private land conservation in Michigan—to very modest beginnings in 1971. It was then that a small group of dedicated folks incorporated the Washtenaw Land Conservancy, the first organization created to save local land in the state. WLC’s bylaws stated “The purpose of the Washtenaw Land Conservancy is the preservation of land and related natural resources to be devoted for educational, scientific and charitable purposes…for the benefit of both present and future generations.”

Starting in 1974, WLC’s first project was protection of a Huron River frontage property in Scio Township downstream of Delhi Metropark. In cooperation with the Michigan chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Washtenaw Audubon Society, the land was acquired and became the Osborne Mill Riverlands Preserve. In 1980, the Osborne Mill property was deeded to the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, which owns and manages it today.

The Osborne project defined WLC’s niche in land conservation: to help protect important parcels for transfer to a public agency. Those projects include Bandemer Park along the Huron River (1984), an addition to Bird Hills Park (1990) and the Black Pond Woods adjacent to the Leslie Science and Nature Center (1991). All of these properties are now owned and managed by Ann Arbor Parks. WLC also acquired by donation three conservation easements on wooded parcels near the Huron River in Scio Township in 1991, and contributed funds to TNC’s expansion of Sharon Hollow Preserve in southwest Washtenaw County in 1992.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, WLC’s activities were lead by two people: real estate attorney Karl Frankena and commercial real estate developer Bill Martin. Both remain active in community affairs to this day. Martin, of course, served as athletic director at the University of Michigan until earlier this year.

Barry Lonik was executive director of one of Legacy’s formative organizations from 1994 to 2001, and now consults on land conservation.

Barry Lonik will be doing a series of articles chronicling our 40 year history. Look for his features in our next three newsletters.

Next time: the Potawatomi Community Land Trust