Edward and Elizabeth Leonard Wildlife Preserve
Access: Open to the public
Acreage: 108 acres
Directions: Located on the west side of Lakeside Road, south of Warren Woods Road in Union Pier, MI. From Red Arrow Highway, travel east on Warren Woods Road to Lakeside Road. From Three Oaks Road, travel west on Warren Woods Road to Lakeside Road. Travel south on Lakeside Road, approximately 0.5 miles to the preserve entrance. A pedestrian-only trailhead is also located on the south side of Warren Woods Road, approximately 0.25 miles west of Lakeside Road. Click here for a link to Google Maps.
Parking: A gravel parking lot is located at the entrance on Lakeside Road.
The Edward and Elizabeth Leonard Wildlife Preserve protects 108 acres along Lakeside Road in Chikaming Township. The property consists of mature woodland, wetlands, and agricultural land. The property’s close proximity to two other nature preserves, Chikaming Township Park and Preserve and the Merritt Family and Younger Family Preserves, creates a corridor of land called a “greenbelt” that provides natural habitat beneficial for native wildlife. Wildlife are mobile; deer, songbirds, butterflies, and even turtles have to move around to acquire resources for survival. Protecting wildlife corridors, such as this one, is important for sustaining healthy wildlife populations.
The Leonard Wildlife Preserve is a prime example of a common story in rural Michigan: the interaction between farms and forests. Aerial photos indicate that much of the property was in agricultural production by the 1930s, and the forests were left in ravines, wetlands, and untillable land. Some of that land is still in production today— roughly 25 acres is farmed each year. A portion of the property to the west hosted two orchards that were abandoned in the 1980s. Since then, the forest has been slowly reclaiming the former orchards, and the young trees growing there are evidence of this process, called succession. The northern third of the Preserve has not been farmed since at least the 1930s (if ever), which has allowed a mature forest to develop with trees that are likely well over 100 years old.
The land was donated by Elizabeth Leonard Rould in 2018 and is named in honor of Elizabeth and her late husband, Edward. Elizabeth wanted to ensure that others, both young and old, would be able to enjoy the property in the same ways she had – walking in the woods and observing wildlife. Additional assistance for the acquisition was provided by The Pokagon Fund.
Want to learn more? Check out our blog on this property.
Pictured to the right is the winner of our 2022 #COLfallphotos contest.
This preserve was acquired in part with funding from The Pokagon Fund.