BY GLENN PUIT
TRAVERSE CITY — Long Lake Township and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy are on the verge of acquiring a coveted parcel of land that will allow public access to nearly 2,000 feet of frontage on Long Lake.
The 250-acre Timbers Recreation Area was used for at least half a century as a camp for the Girl Scouts. The Girl Scouts announced plans to part with the land approximately five years ago, prompting the township to partner with the conservancy to develop a strategy for buying the waterfront acreage.
On Tuesday, the partnership yielded big results: a $2 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to help buy the parcel off North Long Lake Road. The township and conservancy still have to raise a little more than $800,000 to finalize the deal.
"I'm so very, very pleased," said Long Lake Township Supervisor Karen Rosa. "We had our fingers crossed all this time, hoping to get the money to keep this property for everyone to enjoy."
The purchase would be significant for multiple reasons. Much of the shoreline along Long Lake is already developed, meaning the protection of the Timbers Recreation Area would offer significant public access for future generations. Matt McDonough, director of land protection at the conservancy, said a portion of the property was developed by the Armour family, giving it historical value. And, the land offers diverse recreation opportunities within close proximity to Traverse City.
"It's less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Traverse City," McDonough said. "You can go out with family or a group of friends and go fishing, hiking or spend a day at the beach."
The property offers 9,000 feet of water frontage in total, including a 20-acre lake known as Fern Lake. The property is a combination of northern hardwood forest, fields and riparian wetlands. There is also a network of two-tracks and trails and existing structures including an old barn and buildings with stone masonry.
Jennifer Jay, director of communications at the conservancy, said there's an opportunity to develop trails for individuals with disabilities. Funds necessary to finalize the purchase needs to be raised by June of 2014.
"Getting this generous grant is a big step," Jay said. "There is remaining fundraising that needs to be done."