June 4, 2018

Greenbelt Bus Tour Celebrates Protected Farms and Property

ANN ARBOR, Mich.— The annual Greenbelt Bus Tour took place over the weekend, and with great support and enthusiasm from local leaders and the community alike.

“This marks the 8th annual Ann Arbor Greenbelt Bus Tour, highlighting the success of conservation projects in this local community and the partnerships that have made them possible,” said Representative Debbie Dingell. “The program has protected some of southeast Michigan’s most critical farmland and natural areas — including Drake Farm — and supported our local economy while providing countless opportunities for recreation. Thank you to [Greenbelt Program Project Director] Ruth Thornton, the incredible staff at The Conservation Fund and the local partners who have worked tirelessly to ensure these sites can be sustained and enjoyed for generations to come.”

The Greenbelt Program is funded by the Open Space and Parkland Preservation Millage, a 30-year millage approved by Ann Arbor voters in 2003 that also funds the acquisition of parklands for the city’s parks system and raises more than $2 million annually. These funds are matched by federal grants, including funding from ACEP, a Farm Bill program administered by USDA-NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) that provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing agricultural conservation easements, with the goal of helping farmers and other producers keep their land in agriculture. Greenbelt funds are also matched by landowner donations and other locally funded programs.

"Since 2005, the USDA and the Ann Arbor Greenbelt have worked together to permanently preserve nearly 3,000 acres of farmland in Washtenaw County,” noted NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee. “This investment will help protect the agricultural economy of the Ann Arbor area, as well as provide open space for wildlife and nature that all residents and visitors can enjoy."

Through its focus is on preserving working farms as well as more traditional greenspace — such as open fields and wooded areas — the Greenbelt Program creates more opportunities for Ann Arbor residents to access and enjoy nature while also increasing access to fresh, local food. The program helps curb suburban sprawl that threatens the farmland and greenspace surrounding the city as well. Ann Arbor’s dedication to parks and preserving its surrounding greenspaces is one reason it consistently ranks as one of the most livable cities in the United States.

This year’s bus tour featured three of the Greenbelt Program’s more than 50 conservation projects:

Drake Farm: Owned and operated by three generations of the Drake family, the Drake Farm is a 72-acre operation that includes small-scale dairy production as well as soybeans, wheat, corn and hay. Along with Greenbelt funding, this project received funding from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation and Lodi Township.

Scio Woods Preserve: This 91-acre public park was acquired by Washtenaw County in partnership with the Greenbelt Program and Scio Township in 2008. It’s home to two miles of hiking trails, as well as forests, wetlands, intermittent streams and open areas.

Seeley Farm: Just north of Ann Arbor, Seeley Farm is a 30-acre certified organic vegetable farm that sells its vegetables, herbs and flowers to regional grocery stores, restaurants and local farmers markets. This project is also receiving funding from Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation.

“The success of the Ann Arbor Greenbelt shows firsthand how the Farm Bill is working to protect our Michigan way of life,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, who authored the current Farm Bill. “The investments we made are helping farmers keep their farmland productive, while also allowing families to enjoy these beautiful spaces for years to come.”

“Since its establishment, the Greenbelt Program has partnered with community leaders and stakeholders to promote responsible conservation while strengthening Michigan’s economy,” said Senator Gary Peters. “Today’s bus tour is a testament to the many successes the Greenbelt Program has achieved since its establishment, and I commend the program’s continued commitment to Washtenaw County.”

The Greenbelt Program has protected more than 5,100 acres of farmland and open space surrounding the city of Ann Arbor. The Greenbelt Program, which is expected to generate $80 million over 30 years, protects land by purchasing the development rights on properties within the Greenbelt District, which is made up of portions of eight townships surrounding the city. It also partners with Washtenaw County and other local partners to purchase natural areas for publicly accessible parks.


Ruth Thornton | Greenbelt Program Project Director | 734.794.6000, ext. 42798 | rthornton@a2gov.org

Learn more about the Ann Arbor Greenbelt Program.