Honey, We Bought a Preserve
How Acme residents banded together to buy a prized parcel slated for development
By Ross Boissoneau | June 9, 2018
Jim Lamond had a vision. And if it wasn’t the kind where you see God, maybe it could be said it was a vision where he and others saw God’s handiwork, in the form of an 80-acre parcel of land, home to eagles, foxes, deer, and other flora and fauna. The land was destined for development until Lamond and some of his neighbors stepped in and stepped up, buying the property from the bank.
“We saw an opportunity, and were fortunate when it went back to Chemical Bank,” said Lamond, the chair of the group that began meeting to discuss how to protect the property. The result is Holiday Woodlands Preserve, which is both the name given to the park and the name of the non-profit that owns it. The NPO is continuing fundraising to finalize the purchase of the property from Chemical Bank.
The parcel is unique, not least because it encompasses five different ecological zones, according to Lamond: A sand dune, a creek, meadow, marsh, and woodlands. The acreage has long been a place for locals to hike, walk their dogs, snowshoe, ride bikes and generally have a safe, fun time in the outdoors. But that all looked to be coming to an end as a developer eyed it for home sites, planning for 90 lots on the buildable portions of land.
When that developer bailed, Lamond saw it as the community’s last best chance to acquire it and keep it in its natural state. He said the key is to not only have a vision but also translate that dream into reality.
“Central Park in New York was just a vision,” he said. “There were some naysayers when we first started. Others had tried it — the property had gone back to the bank three or four times.”
Even some interested parties were wary of what could happen if they gave money to the cause if the property went back to the bank again. “I kept saying, ‘No, it’s not going back to the bank. It’s not going back,’” he said. “People said I should have a T-shirt with that on it.”
Lamond’s passion didn’t waver, but that’s not to say the purchase was a piece of cake. Even as Lamond was rounding up neighbors, the bank was looking to sell the property for top dollar. The buying process, which went on for months, Lamond said, was “interesting.”
“There was a lot of negotiation.”
So much so that the bank, which initially had listed the site for $325,000, after months of back-and-forth sold the property to the residents (11 initially; 13 now) for $165,000, with a $60,000 down payment. The money was collected from 35 different donors. The remainder of the cost was financed by First Community Bank. The group officially closed on the property Dec. 20.
The property is located just east of Five Mile Road between Holiday and Prouty roads. “It’s the old Prouty farm,” said Lamond, who said the old farm is rife with wildlife.
“I’ve seen turkeys, turkey vultures, foxes, porcupines, hawks, bald eagles — about the whole gamut. The other day I heard an owl at 10 in the morning.”
He said East Bay Township officials have been helpful and supportive. “I went to them asking about a sign. It turns out a park had to be sanctioned by East Bay. They saw a deficiency in the rules and regulations,” Lamond said. Planner Richard Brown and Zoning Administrator Leslie Couturier helped the group work with the township zoning commission and board to allow them to set up the property as a public park.
Lamond said the group plans to keep the property undeveloped. No motorized vehicles will be allowed on it, only foot and bicycle traffic. “We want to be good stewards,” said Lamond. “Ideally we want to leave it as natural as possible. We saw it as a park for today and forever. We feel very fortunate.”
While the immediate need for the down payment to prevent development has been met, the group is still seeking approximately $160,000 more for the final purchase. It is accepting donations for the final purchase price, as well as seeking grants and conducting other fundraising activities.
Get There and/or Give!
Holiday Woodlands Preserve is located in East Bay Township near the Mount Holiday ski hill. It is integrated within the Holiday Hills neighborhood, within walking distance of hundreds of families. An access is planned off Five Mile Road. For a map of the preserve, go to holidaypreserve.wordpress.com.
A long-term public recreation plan for the property is being developed. Current discussions are focused on developing opportunities for “silent recreation activities” and protecting wildlife habitat.
To date, fundraising has been focused on the property’s immediate neighbors in the Holiday Hills area. A larger community-wide effort is now underway to raise the remaining funds. The 501 (c) 3 non-profit is accepting donations toward the final purchase of the property.
Credit or debit card payments can be made through its GoFundMe page. You can also mail checks to:
Holiday Woodlands Preserve
P.O. Box 332
Acme, MI 49610
Donations can also be dropped off in the green mailbox at 3104 Holiday Village Road. Please make checks out to Holiday Woodlands Preserve. For more information, go to holidaypreserve.wordpress.com
The preserve will be accessible to all and protected in perpetuity.