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10th Barn Benefit a boon to local land protection efforts

Posted on September 26, 2019

Click HERE for article.

THREE OAKS — The 10th Annual Chikaming Open Lands Barn Benefit was, as advertised, “a fabulous party out on the ranch.”

COL Executive Director Ryan Postema noted that the organization’s mission of land conservation is made possible by its supporters — including the 225 who attended the Saturday, Sept. 21, fund-raiser held at Ken and Jean Schiffer’s Deer Creek Ranch.

“It’s the people in the community that make everything happen,” he said.

A lot happened inside the spacious barn as it’s full-time equine denizens watched from the pastures outside (those attending the Barn Benefit passed by a series of spotless horse stalls before entering the indoor riding area where the festivities took place).

Many made bids during live and silent auctions while enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from Froehlich’s.

Chikaming Open Lands Board President Linda Puvogel said longtime COL Board member and “great friend” Greg Kaiser had passed away the previous week following a motorcycle accident.

“Greg was a friend of so many people in this community ... Greg was also a great friend of Chikaming Open Lands,” she said, adding that he was on the COL Board of Directors for 14 years starting in 2001.

“He absolutely believed that we should protect the open spaces and keep them beautiful,” she said. “He wanted those open spaces made available for all of us to walk on and enjoy.”

Postema talked about three properties COL acquired in the past year — the 49-acre Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve located between Warren Woods State Park and the Chikaming Township Park & Preserve; the 108-acre Edward & Elizabeth Leonard Wildlife Preserve located along Warren Woods and lakeside Roads; and the 25-acre Younger Preserve on Lakeside Road at I-94 which connects to the previously acquired Merritt Family Preserve.

The Edward & Elizabeth Leonard Wildlife Preserve currently does not have hiking trails, but the Gift for Growth Paddle-Raise Auction, done in increments ranging from $5,000 to $50 and led by Sheerer McCullough auctioneers David Meyers and Stacy Hirschy, came very close to raising $30,000 for stewardship such as trail development and public access at that site.

Postema also talked about the Mighty Acorns educational program that has been expanded to serve elementary students from the River Valley, New Buffalo and Bridgman districts.

“That gets the elementary kids out in our nature preserves and connects them with nature,” he said.

Postema thanked Benefit Committee members, Barn Benefit sponsors, the COL Board of Directors and staff members Jen Thompson and Casey Struecker for helping to make the event a success.

All told, the 2019 Barn Benefit raised approximately $102,000.

Meyers and Hirschy teamed up to work the room for bids on the following Live Auction packages (as described in the Barn Benefit program):

• Greenbush Beer Dinner — A personal five-course beer dinner at Greenbush Brewery. The fabulous chefs at Greenbush will show you what they are made of with creative takes on simple foods paired perfectly with five Greenbush beers. Courtesy of Greenbush Brewing Company.

• Guided Walking Tour of Chicago’s Public Art — Join art historian Diane Dillon, PhD, on a guided tour of public art and sculpture in northern Grant Park and Millenium Park in Chicago for up to 10 people. Highlights include the Art Institute’s South Garden and North Garden, Entrance to the Chicago Stock Exchange Building, Lurie Garden, BP Bridge, Jay Pritzker Pavillion, Cloudgate (“The Bean”), and much more! Courtesy of Mary Strahota (two of these packages were auctioned off).

• Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Tour of The Newberry Library — Go behind the scenes with curators at the Newberry in Chicago to view their extensive collection of rare books, maps, manuscripts, maps and other printed material spanning six centuries. A history buff’s dream come true! Courtesy of Newberry Library.

• Taste of Granor Dinner — Your group of up to 20 people will gather in Granor Farm’s renovated farmhouse on Saturday, November 23 for  a multi-course, family-style meal created by Chef Abra Berens. The meal features produce and grains grown by Granor as well as meats, cheeses, and fruits from other regional farms. Courtesy of Carmen and John Cordogan.

• Private Cooking Class and Dinner with Chef Joho at Granor Farm — Take your culinary skills to a whole new level! Join world-renowned Chef Joho (who spoke about the importance of land protection during the benefit) and Granor Farm Chef Abra Berens for a private cooking class at Granor Farm. Chef Joho will guide you through the preparation of one course that incorporates a bounty of Granor Farm’s freshly harvested organic vegetables. After your exclusive culinary session, your group will enjoy dinner featuring the course you have prepared. Joho is the chef and proprieter at Everest in Chicago. Known as one of the world’s premier dining rooms, Everest has won many accolades for its extraordinary French cuisine. Courtesy of Jean Joho.

• Added to the Live Auction after the brochure had been printed was A Cocktail Party for 30 at artist Thomas Allen Pauly’s A Drawing Room studio in Three Oaks (which captures the old-fashioned elegance of an English Polo Club and is filled with Pauly’s colorful race horse paintings) complete with a Journeyman Distillery mixology class.

• Raffled off during the evening (99 tickets were sold at $100 each) was A Private Dinner for 10 at the Terrace Room. Enjoy a special night at the lovely Terrace Room with a custom menu created just for your group of 10, including appetizers, salad, entree and dessert. A Terrace Room wine expert will pair fine Italian wine with dinner and discuss region, grape varieties, aroma and flavor profiles with diners. Courtesy of  the Terrace Room.

Random bidders also got to take home bottles of limited edition Rusty Bridge Vineyard wine that were named in tribute to the old Flynn Road bridge that now is part of the scenic drive in to Deer Creek Ranch.

Silent Auction offerings included: A Watercolor print of the St. Joseph lighthouse by Dick Carlson; Greenbush Brewer for a Day experience; Dinner at Mesa Luna for 8 with wine pairings; Dinner at Lake Street Eats in Bridgman; a Group Fitness package and swag bag from Equilibrium Fitness; Harbor Country Brewery Tour (gift cards from Beer Church, Haymarket and Ghost Isle); Consult and Tree planting from C&A Arborists; Walk of your property with Ecologist Jack Pizzo; Private Yoga Class for 10 with Elizabeth Nuti overlooking Lake Michigan; an Evening at the Chicago Symphony; a Full Year of Flowers from Fernwood; a Fly Fishing excursion on the Dowagiac River; and a Gift basket from Baroda Founders Wine Cellar.

The Cherry Beach Project

Posted on July 3, 2019

Dear Members and Friends of Chikaming Open Lands,

As you may know, Chikaming Township is currently pursuing an opportunity to purchase the 3-acre property adjacent to Cherry Beach. The Township, the Cherry Beach Committee and several partners have undertaken a fundraising campaign to raise approximately $1.6 million in matching funds for a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF).

The acquisition of this property will significantly expand the public beach area, as well as preserve an area of forested dune and a stream corridor within it. This is important as the forested dunes along Lake Michigan provide important habitat for migratory songbirds and a variety of other species. The small creek that runs through the property connects it to the wetlands in COL’s nature preserves on Harbert Road, thus protecting this parcel maintains a corridor of natural areas to aid movement of wildlife.

Chikaming Open Lands is an organization dedicated to the preservation of natural areas and open space in Berrien County. As such, we wholly support the goal of the Cherry Beach Committee and Chikaming Township to expand the Cherry Beach property.  In anticipation of the successful acquisition, we have signed a 20-year agreement with the Township to provide advice, guidance, and support for stewardship of the natural areas of Cherry Beach. This agreement not only strengthens the Township’s application for the necessary MNRTF grant; it also reflects our continued commitment to partner with municipalities and other organizations across Berrien County to promote land conservation and stewardship.  

The Cherry Beach Project is a rare opportunity to preserve valuable, undeveloped open space along our lakefront.  We believe it takes a commitment from all of us and the leadership of many for land conservation efforts to be successful.  We encourage you, as a supporter of the work of Chikaming Open Lands, to also support the Township’s conservation efforts by making a pledge to the Cherry Beach Project.

For more information or to make a pledge, visit


Ryan J. Postema

Executive Director, Chikaming Open Lands

#10TrailChallenge on tap in July

Posted on June 27, 2019

Find Article HERE.

SAWYER — Throughout the month of July, Chikaming Open Lands (COL) and the Rotary Club of Harbor Country are organizing the #10Trail Challenge, a program designed to highlight local hiking trails in Michiana.

At any time during July, participants in the Challenge can hike any or all of the following 10 trails in the area: COL’s Robinson Woods Preserve, Jens Jensen Preserve, and Turtle Creek Preserve; Berrien County’s Galien River County Park; St. Joseph County Indiana’s Spicer Lake Nature Preserve; Chikaming Township’s Chikaming Township Park and Preserve; the Village of Three Oaks’ Hoadley Nature Trail; Warren Dunes State Park; the Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s Ambler Flatwoods Nature Preserve; and Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve.

Participants must pre-register by filling out an online registration form, found on the COL website at Along the trail in each of these natural areas, COL and Rotary will install picture frame “selfie stations.” Participants are asked to take a photo of themselves at these stations, and tag COL on Instagram using #10trail and #chikamingopenlands, and/or post the photo on Facebook tagging @chikamingopenlands. Those not using social media may email COL their photos at COL will track the photo submissions throughout the month. Participants who hike any three or four trails will win a free ice cream cone at Scoops Ice Cream in Bridgman. Those who hike any five to nine of the trails will receive a turkey sandwich at The Peasant’s Pantry in Sawyer. Participants who hike all 10 trails will win a “Pick Three Combo Platter” (choice of BBQ ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken or smoked ham) from New Buffalo Bill’s in New Buffalo. Photo submissions will be tallied and prizes awarded on Aug. 1, 2019.

Chikaming Open Lands to dedicate Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve

Posted on May 31, 2019

Find article HERE.

THREE OAKS — Chikaming Open Lands (COL) is holding a public dedication on June 9, 2019 at 2 p.m. EDT to celebrate the acquisition of the Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve, located on Warren Woods Road in Chikaming Township. The celebration will take place at the Lakeside Cabins Resort, which is immediately adjacent to the new nature preserve.

The event is open to the public and will include a dedication of the preserve in memory of former COL Executive Director Chris Thompson, who passed away unexpectedly in 2016. Guided walks of the 49-acre property, which features open fields, woodland and frontage on the Galien River, will also be available.

COL acquired the nature preserve on October 30, 2018. 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. In addition, COL was awarded a grant from The Carls Foundation, and was able to utilize grant funds previously received from The Pokagon Fund to complete the project.

 “We are pleased to have the opportunity to honor Chris by dedicating this new preserve in his memory,” says COL Executive Director Ryan Postema.

Chikaming Open Lands is the local land conservancy dedicated to preserving the open spaces and natural rural character of southwest 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 1,900 acres of open space since its founding in 1999.

Smart Growth: Expanding Protected Properties

Posted on April 30, 2019

Find Article HERE.

Ever wondered what kinds of things we look for when we are considering acquiring a new piece of land to protect? You’d be correct if you are thinking of ecological value, important plant and/or animal habitat, or potential for outdoor recreation. Those are all very important elements. One factor you may not have thought about is: is it next to an existing protected property? 

If the answer is yes, the potential acquisition jumps up on our priority list. Why? Because adding adjacent land to properties already under protection allows larger contiguous areas for wildlife to call home, provides additional space for native flora to flourish, increases public access, and can even bridge a gap between protected lands, creating what we call a “greenway” that we can potentially expand even further in the future.

A great example of this is our recent acquisition of 12 acres next to Burns Prairie Preserve, allowing us to double the size of the existing preserve. Located on Mount Zion Road in Galien Township, Burns Prairie Preserve features prairie, wetlands and woodland. After a successful restoration undertaken in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serve, the prairie boasts native grasses, and in the summer, an abundance of wildflowers in bloom.

And now there’s potential to expand Burns Prairie even further, by acquiring up to 30 acres just to the north of the new addition. This would create a 55-acre protected natural area, providing expanded habitat for wildlife like grassland birds, and the opportunity to improve public access for outdoor recreation. We are currently seeking funding to help us further increase the size of Burns Prairie Preserve. If you’d like to help, contact our office at or (269) 405-1006.