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Issues Of The Environment: Washtenaw County And Michigan's 103rd State Park

Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve
Courtesy Photo

Michigan has a new state park, and it's mostly in Washtenaw County.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks to Douglas Koop, executive director of the Legacy Land Conservancy, about the creation Michigan's 103rd state park and its first-of-its-kind partnership with the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Department.


   *   This summer, Washtenaw County gained a new park, Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve.  It straddles Washtenaw and Jackson Counties and is home to some of the most well preserved grasslands, prairie, and waterfowl migration stopover sites in southeast Michigan.

   *   A land deal decades in the making was finalized in June 2016, creating Michigan’s 103rd state park.  This partnership between the state and Washtenaw County is unique.  Washtenaw County is the first and only county to jointly operate and establish a state park with the MDNR, and both will operate it.  Plans are ongoing to determine what recreational and conservation amenities will be constructed, meanwhile the park is open to visitors and covered under the state’s “recreation passport”, however parking is limited.

Legacy Land Conservancy and the “Emerald Arc”

Legacy Land Conservancy is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works with individuals, landowners, organizations, and local government to protect forests, prairies, farms, wetlands and waters.  Legacy’s mission is to secure for current and future generations a land base for nature, agriculture, freshwater, and recreation in Jackson and Washtenaw Counties and beyond.

The LLC was formerly called the Washtenaw Land Conservancy and Potawatomi Land Trust, and the name was changed in 2008 to reflect a widening vision that includes preservation of areas beyond (and thus far adjacent to) Washtenaw County.  In 2008, Legacy Land Conservancy set a goal of protecting 25,000 acres of the most important lands in Washtenaw and Jackson Counties.  This “Emerald Arc” extends from PinckneyState Recreation Areaon the north to Hayes State Park on the south.  It includes portions of the Huron, Raisin, Grand, and Kalamazoo Rivers.  Both sides of the Arc are bordered by some of America’s most productive farmland.  Working with our partners and with the community, Legacy is committed to ensuring that future generations enjoy the clean water, fresh food, and peaceful recreational opportunities that have characterized Washtenaw and Jackson counties for generations.

Douglas Koop

Douglas (“Doug”) Koop became the new Executive Director this year.  He takes the place of Susan Lackey, who retired on June 30, 2016.  (She was integral in putting the park in place and keeping people interested.) Doug comes to Legacy after 18 years as the Executive Director of Little Forks Conservancy in Midland.  With prior conservation experience in northern Michigan, Maryland, Georgia, and Massachusetts, Doug brings a lifelong love of seeking a more sustainable balance between humans and nature.  He grew up west of Grand Rapids, earned a degree in the biologic sciences at Calvin College, attended the AuSableInstitute for Environmental Studies, and holds a Master’s in Geography from the University of Georgia

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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