The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy’s planned purchase of the former Mitchell Creek Golf Course holds promise — the promise that a patch of open space will remain for future generations in a district that is rapidly being developed.
The site of the proposed Mitchell Creek Meadows Preserve is not a particularly quiet place. It is off Three Mile Road, just south of the east end of Cherry Capital Airport’s primary runway. But the site is green — it is in the core of the Mitchell Creek watershed.
This parcel is not to be confused with the land conservancy’s existing 128-acre Mitchell Creek Nature Preserve, a mile to the west off Town Line Road. Or the Reffitt Nature Preserve just to the north.
The proposed Mitchell Creek Meadows Preserve parcel encloses 166 acres. A $1.1 million donation from local philanthropists Don and Jerry Oleson made it possible for the conservancy to purchase the land.
Development is accelerating in the area around the airport. Costco moved in, and more commercial construction is on the way around it.
Housing development continues in the area. The Business Park Drive industrial neighborhood curves around the end of the runway, north of the proposed preserve. Grand Traverse Academy educates students just to the south.
The acquisition of the parcel by the conservancy will help preserve wetlands, including 6,000 feet of frontage along Mitchell Creek and its tributaries. State officials classify Mitchell Creek as an impaired waterway because of E.coli bacterial contamination, apparently from faulty septic systems. Records show that the Mitchell Creek watershed has lost 45 percent of its original wetland acreage.
Preserving this large chunk of watershed is a positive step, said Baykeeper Heather Smith, of the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay.
And it might serve a secondary purpose. The proposed Mitchell Creek Meadows Preserve, the GTRLC muses, might serve as the permanent home of the conservancy’s offices.
We think the combination of natural space and conservancy offices would be a great use of the former golf course. It would both preserve a piece of the watershed and provide a home for conservancy offices. The conservancy currently rents office space.
A little bit of green space can provide a healthy breath of fresh air. This section of wetlands seems ideal both as a target for preservation and as an appropriate home for conservancy offices.
The location, centered among continuing development both commercial and residential, serves to remind us all that green spaces are valuable as our community continues to grow.