2006-02-11 / Top News

Conservancy Created To Protect Island Land

By Karen Gould

The Mackinac Conservancy has been created this winter to offer Mackinac Island property owners opportunities to protect the scenic, natural, and historic value of their property, and to work with local and state government to protect important scenic and natural areas on the Island.

“We wanted to start a conservancy on the Island to offer land owners a chance to protect the value of their property and use the conservancy as an option,” said Anneke Myers, who helped organize the group, along with Steve Murray and Marta Olson.

“The goal is to have a mechanism on the Island for conservancy,” she added. “We wanted to do something that is positive.”

The group isn’t designed to be an aggressive protector of land from development, she noted, but rather to be available to assist with the legal and financial complexities of conservancy, should a property owner need help.

An example of land conservancy would be a property owner selling or donating the development rights to the property to prevent future owners from building on it. The late John McCabe worked out a similar arrangement some years ago with the Mackinac Island State Park Commission for his property near British Landing.

The new Mackinac Conservancy will have a steering committee comprised of Island property owners and residents who will work with interested landowners. The Little Traverse Conservancy, with which the local group has affiliated itself, provides staff support and experienced leadership to assist Island landowners in developing a plan to fit individual needs, explained Mrs. Myers.

One means of land protection is the establishment of a conservation easement. An easement is a legal agreement between the conservancy and the landowner and serves to protect the land for future generations by limiting the property’s use in perpetuity.

For example, restrictions could be placed on a piece of property to include a requirement that the land not be subdivided.

Easements also can be set up to include protecting the view or limiting development by capping the number of homes built on that land, said Mrs. Myers.

The conservancy’s obligation is to make sure the terms of the easement are never violated.

Eventually, Mrs. Myers said, the Mackinac Conservancy looks forward to working with state and city officials on projects of mutual interest on Mackinac Island, but the Conservancy will not become involved in local politics or zoning.

The Conservancy has established a fund with the Mackinac Island Community Foundation to help with land conservation and educational projects.

The organization also accepts donated property and eventually may be able to purchase land for preservation.

The fund is an unendowed donor advised fund, explained Jennifer Bloswick, director of the Community Foundation. Money from the fund can be requested from the steering committee at any time, though it requires the final approval of the Community Foundation board, she said.

“We could have set up the fund with the Little Traverse Conservancy, but we wanted to be a part of the Community Foundation,” said Mrs. Myers, who noted the Community Foundation already has worked with the Little Traverse Conservancy. Little Traverse Conservancy has preserved land in Mackinac County and Cheboygan County.

Mrs. Myers said the Conservancy plans to hold information seminars to let landowners know about the options that are available to them.

An open house is planned for June, with Little Traverse Conservancy Executive Director Tom Bailey scheduled to speak.

The Steering Committee meets twice a year between May and September.

Co-chairs of the organization are Anneka Myers, Steve Murray, and Marta Olson. Steering Committee members include David Armour, Jennifer Bloswick, Dennis Bradley, Sr., Brad Chambers, Mark Chambers, Barbara Fisher, Nicki Griffith, Michael Hart, Margaret Horn, Susan Lenfesty, Ann Levy, Susan Lundgren, Mary McCourt-Dufina, Bruce Miller, Thomas Pfeiffelmann, and Christopher Straus.

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