LAKESIDE — Sunshine warmed the crowd that gathered on Saturday, Aug. 19, to participate in the dedication ceremony organized by Chikaming Open Lands (COL) for the 35-acre Merritt Family Preserve on Mydra Road.

The new preserve will be the 12th in the area protected by and under the stewardship of COL, and it was dedicated in memory of Larry Merritt, who provided many years of good service to Chikaming Township and other communities as their consulting engineer.

Making opening remarks at the ceremony, COL Executive Director Ryan Postema related how local business owner Andy Brown had gotten in touch with COL Board member Steve Smith and informed him that the Merritt family might be interested in donating the scenic parcel as a nature preserve, and would the organization be interested?

“Of course,” Postema remarked, “we told them we’d absolutely be interested in doing that because the property falls right in line with our priorities. It’s accessible to the public and has forest, wetlands, and even a pond. It’s also in close proximity to Chikaming Township’s Park & Preserve, and becomes part of the area’s ‘Green Corridor.’”

“We’re very grateful to Meryle Merritt (Larry’s widow) and the entire family for making this all possible,” he added before the sign for the preserve was officially unveiled.

Larry Merritt Jr. spoke on behalf of the family and said that his father appreciated and respected nature and enjoyed spending quality time outdoors in this special place that was referred to as “The Road.”

“Our father didn’t consider all the jobs he did here to improve and enhance the property as chores because he just enjoyed being outdoors and being with his family,” Merritt Jr. remarked. “Little by little our father and our family were able to bring it back to its former glory, and now it will be able to be enjoyed by everyone.

“Dad was an amateur forester, and each year he’d buy hundreds of seedlings and saplings (mostly pine and fir) that the family planted,” he continued. “We all have great memories of spending time here with our father.

“Of course,” he added, “there were some challenges along the way, such as the time a tree fell on the chain saw, the truck getting stuck in a very wet spot, and constantly trying to steer clear of any poison ivy.”

Merritt Jr. also said that his father was able to put some of his engineering skill set to good use when he made plans to add a pond to the landscape, and that included constructing a dam.

“Our father loved spending time outdoors here with his family, and we know this is what he would have wanted done with the property so its natural beauty can be retained and shared with other nature lovers and the community,” Merritt Jr. concluded.

Postema concurred, commenting, “Through their donation to COL the Merritt family knows this property will now be protected forever, and that’s good for them, for us, and the community.”

The afternoon concluded with hikes through the scenic landscape to the pond led by Postema and Pat Fisher of Harbor Country Hikers.

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