History of The South Shore Baseline Lake Land Preserve (BLLP)
By Suzanne Van Appledorn (A Personal Story)
In October of ’93, I made a mid-week trip to our cottage on Leach Lane. I found workmen, trucks, large digging equipment, and piles of dirt on land near Leach Lane and Strawberry Lake Road. Long-time Leach Lane resident, Gerry Marsh, was standing with the men, shovel in hand, looking at newly excavated perk holes. He gave me a smile and a big wave. I mentioned this to my husband, Carl, who called Gerry to see what was happening.
Metro Parks owned 40 plus acres on Strawberry Lake Road they had purchased in hopes of establishing a Metro Park there, but access to the river never became available to them. We had heard that this parcel was going to be declared excess land and sold in the near future. Owen Haig, who lived at 7526 Base Lake Rd suggested to my husband that he write to Metro Parks to inquire about bidding on it. Carl wrote a letter addressed to Metro Park Secretary Donald Beem but did not receive a reply. A few months later we learned a developer intended to build thirteen houses on the land.
Carl and I, with support from Owen Haig, put out a letter informing all fifty five cottage owners on Baseline Lake’s “South Shore” of the situation. We had a meeting at our cottage in November. Carl explained the situation and asked if those present would agree to pursue halting development, acquiring the property, and contributing money, to hire a lawyer. It was decided we should contact Metro Parks as soon as possible.
Mary Rinne, a lawyer and Baseline Lake resident, went with me to a Metro Park Meeting at their Headquarters at Kensington. Mary offered an impassioned plea to the Board to honor their agreement to let cottage owners bid on the excess land parcel; to hold true to their philosophy of preserving green space near the Huron River. The board agreed that they needed to reconsider.
I attended the next Metro Park Board Meeting with cottage-owner Tom Hiller. I spoke during “New Business”. Trying to look professional in a business suit and heels, I asked if Metro Parks would sell the parcel for $99,000 to Baseline Lake cottage owners to preserve it in its natural state. Please know I had no authority to do this; however, they agreed to accept the offer! Attached to the deed would be use restrictions prohibiting hunting, development, or improvements other than for maintaining open natural space and non-commercial recreational use.
At the end of our deadline in 1994, I returned to a Metro Park Board Meeting. I stated that I had raised $89,000 in pledges from thirty-four cottage owners and could not raise another penny. The board erupted in congratulations and cheers at our concerted success even though it fell short of the promised $99,000. “The amount you have is fine with us! Good work !”
In l995, pledges were exchanged for checks, all made out to “Metropolitan Parks Authority.” Donald Beem said their secretarial staff was limited. Could I type out receipts with notes of appreciation to the thirty-three donors on their letterhead and address envelopes to boot? This was before we had personal computers, but the trusty electric typewriter produced letters and addressed envelopes in short order. Donald Beem signed them. We stamped them and put them in the mail. The deed was given over to us on August 10th, l995. Tom Hiller personally filed it at Washtenaw County Court House.
At the first meeting in August, 1996, we celebrated the birth of Baseline Lake Land Preserve! Officers were chosen; bylaws were reviewed and accepted with a copy sent to the State of Michigan. This first annual meeting with election of officers was first held at our place in conjunction with our annual “end of summer” celebration, but now is held at the cottages of various board members.
The land remains beautiful with Arms Creek flowing through its marshy wetland in the low acres. Mature oak and hickory trees cover the high terrain. Wildflowers, mushrooms, sedges, and shrubs are prolific as well as birds and wildlife. Kyle Marsh, who has taken a deep interest in the land, has walked it with foresters and naturalists and studied woodlot management. BLLP is good to go for 100 years with two renewable 100-year options. It makes a lush green border for a Natural Scenic Road stretch of Strawberry Lake Road.
The efforts and contributions of everyone who made Baseline Lake Land Preserve happen since that fateful day in l992 are very much appreciated. I think all agree we are indeed fortunate to have a single row of cottages backed by natural land that helps make for a beautiful and healthy place for us all.