Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve Improvements
Chris Thompson, the former Executive Director for Chikaming Open Lands who passed away unexpectedly in June 2016, had a vision for improving people’s lives by giving them opportunities to connect with the land. That too is our vision for the preserve that bears his name: the Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve.
The Memorial Preserve is a mix of abandoned agricultural field, floodplain forest, and frontage on the Galien River. We aim to maintain the high-quality forest along the river as it is a nice mix of beech, maple, tulip, and cherry trees. Additionally, we will allow the forest to extend out into the field, as it is already doing, through a process called succession. The northern half of the agricultural field will be restored to a mesic (think moist) prairie, a historically common but now rare ecosystem. The prairie will be restored by reintroducing fire, removing invasive plants, and re-seeding with a prairie seed mix from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Between the prairie and forest, we will create a transitional savanna, an ecosystem with sparse trees and shrubs intermixed with abundant grasses and wildflowers. The savanna restoration will be accomplished by reintroducing fire, removing invasive species, and allowing desirable saplings to continue to grow.
Facilitating public access will involve developing trails, installing a parking lot, and building a river overlook. We envision trails that allow hikers to enjoy all the ecosystem types the preserve offers. A parking lot will be located off of Warren Woods Road on the north side of the property. In the future, we will consider installing a platform or pavilion on the southern-most trail that overlooks the Galien River, thus providing a peaceful place to relax mid-hike.
The Memorial Preserve improvements will take years to complete (and in the case of the savanna, decades!), but we have already started the trails. Once open, we hope you will join us in remembering the man this preserve commemorates and enjoy some time outdoors!