Alpena Township and The Nature Conservancy Complete Shoreline Protection Project

The Nature Conservancy
Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Once staked for a small subdivision, 143 acres along Lake Huron, including nearly 10,000 feet of shoreline on Misery and El Cajon Bays, are now forever protected thanks to Alpena Township, The Nature Conservancy and the former property owners.

Four years ago, Ken and Pat Houghmaster were considering developing their property into 30 lots. The area and its shoreline along Lake Huron were a top conservation priority for The Nature Conservancy based on a scientific assessment. In 2002, the Conservancy contacted the landowners to discuss alternative conservation options. The landowners liked the idea of preserving their property for future generations, and Alpena Township also showed interest in protecting the shoreline and ensuring lake access.

Working collaboratively with the Houghmasters, The Nature Conservancy helped the township garner funds to purchase the 133-acre tract. The township submitted a grant to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund in 2002, and the project was the highest scoring project in the Trust Fund's competitive grant program that year. The township also utilized grant money from the Department of Environmental Quality's Coastal Zone Management program, a prime funding source for Great Lakes shoreline preservation.

"Future generations should be eternally grateful for the Houghmasters' foresight in protecting this extraordinary property," said Andrea Kline, East Michigan conservation director for The Nature Conservancy. "The more we explored this region, the more excited we became about working with the Houghmasters to protect this important place."

The tract is located on a peninsula just east of Alpena, and provides habitat for the federally threatened dwarf lake iris, which is plentiful on the property. Local residents have recalled seeing black bear roam the property in years past.

"We've known this place was special for some time, but it's nice to have others verify its importance," said Alpena Township Supervisor Marie Twite. "We've enjoyed working with the Houghmasters and The Nature Conservancy on this project, and we are relieved that it's finally done. This is an historic day to celebrate this lasting achievement."

El Cajon Bay has several karst (sinkhole) features, including a large spring issuing from an 80-foot deep sinkhole in the bay itself. The spring—perhaps the largest in Michigan— flows through a gypsum deposit some 500 feet below the surface and is believed to be an outlet for an underground river that may connect to other Alpena County sinkholes. The spring's sufficient volume keeps this portion of the bay from freezing and helps to improve the overall water quality of the bay and the surrounding aquifer.

In addition to the shoreline, the property contains heavily wooded areas and marshes, providing habitat for a number of bird species. On the lakeward margins of the marsh is Misery Bay, scattered islands provide nesting habitat for threatened common and Caspian terns, as well as black crowned night herons, double crested cormorants, great blue herons and two species of gulls.

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The Nature Conservancy counts at least 1 million members worldwide, including more than 30,000 in Michigan. The Conservancy and its members have protected more than 117 million acres on Earth, including more than 82,000 acres in Michigan. The Nature Conservancy embraces a non-confrontational, market-based approach for accomplishing its science-driven mission.

For more information, or to contact The Nature Conservancy, see their website at: www.nature.org

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