THREE OAKS — Chikaming Open Lands (COL) acquired a new nature preserve in Chikaming Township on October 30, 2018. The 49-acre property, consisting of swaths of open fields, high-quality woodland, and frontage on the Galien River, will be dedicated in memory of the organization’s late executive director, Chris Thompson.
More than 125 individuals and organizations participated in a campaign to raise the funds needed to complete the purchase of the property and protect the open space in perpetuity. Local members of the community and other of Thompson’s friends, family and colleagues in the conservation community raised more than $226,000 to acquire the property in his memory. COL was also awarded a $100,000 grant from The Carls Foundation, and George Lucas of RE/MAX Harbor Country, the real estate agent who represented COL in the transaction, donated his commission to the project. The remainder of the purchase price was provided by COL, using grant funds previously received from The Pokagon Fund. In addition, COL received a commitment from the neighboring Owners at Lakeside Cabins Resort (LCR) and Ted and Tim O’Neil, the managers of LCR, to assist in funding future stewardship costs.
Located on Warren Woods Road between Warren Woods State Park and Chikaming Township Park and Preserve, the Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve will be open to the public for outdoor recreation. COL’s plans for the property include developing a system of hiking trails, improving public access, and restoring the open fields to native prairie. The organization will also explore the possibility of offering access to the Galien River in the future. “Chris’s vision was to connect the people of our community to the land, by providing the kinds of outdoor experiences that are proven to make people healthier and happier,” said current Executive Director Ryan Postema. “Our goal for this new preserve is to create a welcoming space for local residents and visitors alike to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.”
Thompson passed away suddenly on June 3, 2016. Shortly thereafter, COL’s Board of Directors resolved to proactively seek out a property that the organization would acquire and protect as a nature preserve in his memory. “We are so pleased to have had the opportunity to acquire this
property in Chris’ memory,” said Postema. “It was exactly what we were looking for—the kind of place Chris would have loved; and moreover, that our entire community can enjoy.”
Chikaming Open Lands is the local land conservancy dedicated to preserving the open spaces and natural rural character of southern Berrien County. COL works to protect and restore native plant and animal habitat, improve water quality, and permanently preserve ecologically significant forests, prairies and wetlands, as well as prime farmland and other open spaces in this area. COL serves nine townships in southwest Berrien County, and has been instrumental in preserving more than 1,800 acres of open space since its founding in 1999.