Leelanau State Park
Crystal River, Michigan. Photo by Leelanau Lens, Flickr
If you envision Michigan as the palm of your hand, some of the state’s most important conservation lands can be found in Leelanau County, near the tip of your pinkie finger. There, for instance, you can find the Crystal River: a clear, meandering stream that connects Glen Lake to Lake Michigan. Surrounded by dunes and wetlands, this special place is home to cedars, spawning salmon and a dizzying array of plants.
The Crystal River could have become part of a resort and golf course, but thanks to the Leelanau Conservancy’s vision, two decades of negotiation and two loans from The Conservation Fund, 104 critical acres are now part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, protected for future generations by the National Park Service.
This effort required a congressionally approved park boundary change and a gutsy financial commitment from the Leelanau Conservancy’s board. Finally, with the Fund’s support, this haven will remain a favorite place for the wild—and the wild at heart.
“The Conservation Fund was absolutely critical to the Crystal River project. We borrowed $2.1 million while we waited for federal funding for the last 59 acres to come through. With our annual budget of just $600,000, a purchase costing more than $4.8 million was a huge risk. We could never have borrowed so much money from a bank.” — Susan Price, Chief Financial Officer, Leelanau Conservancy.