Explore Torch Lake Nature Preserve | GT scene

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Grand Traverse Scene magazine. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click on here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.

Looking for a new place to enjoy the splendor of fall? Explore the recently unveiled Torch Lake Nature Preserve by Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

The 95-acre woodland reserve with its 1.5-mile hiking trail is along Robinson Road in the original Forest township of County Antrim.

“Most of it is hardwood and it’s especially pretty in the fall as the trees turn yellow, red and orange,” property donor Terry Malone said. “But that’s enough all year round.”

The Malone family’s relationship with Torch Lake began in 1932 when Terry’s in-laws built a log cabin next to Michigan’s deepest inland lake. They spent the summer along Torch until Malone and his adult children all moved permanently 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 bought the land in 2016 from Charlie Hibbard. Hibbard’s family had owned the property since 1928. Both men wanted to protect the desirable property from development.

The new nature reserve is adjacent to the 430-acre Torch Ridge conservation easement secured by the GTRLC in 2016. The addition of the Malone land improves the Torch wildlife corridor and better protects water quality, the city said. GTRLC spokesperson, Jennifer Jay. The waters flow from the land ridges into the lake, providing a natural filter that cleans surface runoff before it enters the lake famous for its turquoise color.

Fauna and flora abound in the reserve. Wildlife that call the territory home include white-tailed deer and porcupine. Ongoing surveys will fully identify the animal population. The plant life of the preserve showcases the plant biodiversity of northern Michigan.

“It’s 89.3% native plant species,” Jay said. “It’s really nice to see. It’s something we strive to protect.

Wild black cherry, several varieties of ferns, Jack-in-the-pulpit, trillium, Indian pipe, and Dutchman’s breeches are all part of the property’s plant array.

Recreational activities allowed in the nature reserve are hiking and snowshoeing.

“The property is more conducive to passive, quiet recreation,” Jay said.

The reserve’s mostly flat trail consists of two connected loops that meander along the top of the ridge in a northerly and southerly direction. It offers views of the leaning valleys over Torch Lake.

Start exploring the property from the Robinson Road trailhead, located about a quarter mile from South East Torch Lake Drive. Improvements to signage and parking infrastructure will be completed this fall.

“This project is a win for many reasons, from recreation and scenic views to water quality and wildlife habitat,” said GTRLC Director Glen Chown. “We are extremely grateful to the Malone family for making this project possible.”

The Torch Lake Nature Reserve marks the latest achievement of the GTRLC’s Generations Campaign, which began in 2015 and ends in 2021. The campaign helps protect important farms and natural lands and increases public access to nature and outdoor recreation and stewardship throughout the region.

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