With the firearms deer hunting season at the midway mark, I always like to offer readers a suggestion as to where they may hike, mountain bike or just get outdoors yet feel safe. It’s a win-win situation for all outdoor enthusiasts; hunters have just a short two-week window to enjoy their sport and, with an alternate recreation spot, non-hunters can honor that time for both amicability and safety.
The new Holiday Woodlands Preserve, off Five Mile Road in East Bay Township, opened a month ago and offers unmarked trails for both hiking and mountain biking in an area designated “no hunting.” It’s a work in progress spread across the southern forested flank of Holiday Hills. The headwaters of Bakers Creek, a Michigan designated trout stream, cascades down through the preserve.
The 80-acre preserve came about through the banding together of several Holiday Hills neighbors who wanted to save the forest and hills from a planned development that had the potential to add another 90-some homes to the area. The area, part of the old Prouty Farm, had been used for decades by area residents for outdoor recreation. Through negotiations with the bank that owned the property when the development was put on hold they were able strike a deal, raise enough money through donations for a down payment and open the land to the public.
The nonprofit group is still seeking donations from the community to cover costs of the loan and make mortgage payments.
Hiking the main trail recently after the opening I was struck by the beauty of the area and various environments — creeks, wetlands, sand dunes, artesian springs, and evergreen and hardwood forests — along its route. It’s a good climb up behind the Holiday Hills neighborhoods from the trailhead just off Five Mile Road — probably around 250 vertical feet, though the trail stretches the climb out over a mile. The steepest portion is actually climbing from the trailhead up to the lower meadow that has an elongated sand dune crossing the far end. From the top of the dune you catch a glimmer of East Bay over the forest. It will make for a great sledding hill during winter.
Plans call for eventually adding a trail map at the trailhead, which has limited parking, and cutting some new trails to create loops.
The Holiday Woodlands Preserve will prove a valuable asset for our outdoors community, especially being close to town. Kudos to the Holiday Hills residents who saw an opportunity to keep the land in the public domain and preserve it for future generations to enjoy.
For more information, including how you can help, log on to www.holidaywoodlandspreserve.com/donations.
Terrell’s Trail Notes
After the initial quick climb the trail crosses the lower meadow with the sand dune. A spur trail on the other side of the meadow climbs alongside the dune to reach the top. The main trail continues into the forest on the other side. None of the trails as yet are marked or mapped. The trail leading into the forest appears to be an old two-track that gently climbs into the hills. Below the trail you can see where Baker Creek has carved a deep path as it makes its way towards East Bay. A couple of spurs, which I didn’t explore, take off from the main path as it continues to climb.
The main trail I followed was a little over a mile from the trailhead to a large upper meadow behind the Holiday Hills subdivisions near the top, according to my Fitbit. The fringe of the meadow as it climbs a tall hill offered some nice views of the forest and surrounding countryside. Heading back down the same trail to my vehicle was 2.6 miles round trip.
Along the way Lulu and I spotted a couple of deer meandering through the woods and a fox that crossed the path ahead of us. Lulu was very interested but kept in check as she watched intently. There are also black bear, coyotes, bald eagles and owls among a wide range of species that call Holiday Hills home.