Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Fall 2019 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
Looking for a new spot to enjoy fall splendor? Explore Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy’s recently unveiled Torch Lake Nature Preserve.
The 95-acre woodland preserve with its 1.5-mile hiking trail sits along Robinson Road in Antrim County’s Forest Home Township.
“It’s largely hardwoods and is particularly pretty in fall as the trees turn yellow, red and orange,” said the property’s donor Terry Malone. “But it’s pretty year-round.”
The Malone family’s relationship with Torch Lake began in 1932 when Terry’s in-laws built a log cabin beside Michigan’s deepest inland lake. They summered along Torch until Malone and his adult children all permanently moved to the area.
“Our whole family life has been tied to Torch Lake,” Malone said. “That’s why we wanted to see it preserved in its natural state.”
They also wanted others to be able to enjoy the scenic area. Malone purchased the land in 2016 from Charlie Hibbard. Hibbard’s family had owned the property since 1928. Both men wished to protect the desirable property from development.
The new nature preserve lies adjacent to the 430-acre Torch Ridge conservation easement secured by GTRLC in 2016. The addition of the Malone land enhances the Torch wildlife corridor and better safeguards water quality said GTRLC spokesperson Jennifer Jay. Waters flow from land ridges into the lake, providing a natural filter that cleans surface water runoff before it enters the lake famous for its turquoise color.
Flora and fauna abound within the preserve. Wildlife making its home on the land includes white tail deer and porcupine. Surveys underway will fully identify the animal population. The preserve’s plant life showcases northern Michigan plant biodiversity.
“It’s 89.3 percent native plant species,” Jay said. “It’s really nice to see. That is something we strive to protect.”
Wild black cherry, several fern varieties, Jack-in-the-pulpit, trillium, Indian pipe and Dutchman’s breeches are all among the property’s array of plant life.
Permitted recreation activities in the nature preserve are hiking and snowshoeing.
“The property is more conducive to passive, quiet recreation,” Jay said.
The preserve’s mostly flat trail consists of two connected loops weaving along the ridge top running north and south. It offers views of valleys leaning into Torch Lake.
Begin exploring the property from the Robinson Road trailhead, located about one-quarter mile from South East Torch Lake Drive. Signage and parking infrastructure improvements will be completed this fall.
“This project is a win for a lot of reasons, from recreation and scenic views to water quality and wildlife habitat,” said GTRLC Director Glen Chown. “We’re so incredibly thankful to the Malone family for making this project possible.”
Torch Lake Nature Preserve marks the latest achievement in GTRLC’s Campaign for Generations which began in 2015 and concludes in 2021. The campaign allows for the protection of significant farms and natural lands and increases public access to nature and outdoor recreation and stewardship throughout the area.