Huron Pines Coastal Office Opens in Alpena

Ribbon cutting and open house slated for Feb. 19

Huron Pines, an environmental nonprofit organization based in Gaylord, has made a second home in Alpena where it will continue directing its conservation focus toward communities along the Lake Huron coastline.

A ribbon cutting with the Alpena Chamber of Commerce will be held at 1pm Feb. 19 at the new office, 122 W. Chisholm St., followed by an open house until 4pm to give the public an opportunity to see the space, meet the staff and learn more about the organization.

The Alpena office houses three full-time employees. Emily Vogelgesang, Environmental Education Coordinator, transferred to Alpena from Gaylord. She has been with Huron Pines since 2017 developing and executing hands-on educational programming in partnership with school districts across Northeast Michigan.

Emily Vogelgesang’s first trip to Alpena in 2017 was also the Florida native’s first time seeing the Great Lakes. Environmental Education Coordinator for Huron Pines, she was in town for a team meeting of the North East Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative. Photo by Jennie Zoll

Two new positions were filled by Alpena natives Amy Nowakowski and Chris Engle. As Coastal Project Manager, Nowakowski is focused on road/stream crossings, river restoration and invasive species management. As Communications Associate, Engle will share project information, updates and events to engage people across the region in conservation.

Coastal Project Manager Amy Nowakowski during a solo kayaking trip on the Thunder Bay River in September 2019. “This is one section of the river I grew up on so it feels like home every time I’m here,” she said. Photo by Tim Campbell
Communications Associate Chris Engle hoists his first Atlantic salmon caught November 2018 below 9th Street Dam. Photo by Jim Engle

With 15 full-time employees, Huron Pines serves 12 counties across the northeastern lower peninsula, engaging communities and partners in conservation efforts. 

“We’ve always been drawn to Alpena because of its abundant natural resources including Lake Huron, large tracts of land and unique karst landscapes,” said Brad Jensen, Executive Director of Huron Pines. “We’ve really seen an expansion of our work over the last few years in Presque Isle, Alpena and Alcona counties and that’s been driven by the people and partners in those places.”

Jensen noted a stronger local presence will help Huron Pines work closely with partners big and small to take on large-scale projects otherwise out of reach.

In the last decade, they have worked with the Alpena community on managing the spread of invasive plants around Island Park with the help of volunteers and members of the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary and placed Huron Pines AmeriCorps members with local organizations including Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and North East Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.

Additionally, Huron Pines is working with communities along the coast including Alpena, Au Gres, Rogers City and East Tawas to address stormwater issues in an effort to protect the long-term health of Lake Huron.

Gary Dawley is trustee of Besser Foundation, one of the early funders to support the new Alpena office.

“The attributes that will carry Alpena into the future are the availability of access to various bodies of water and other significant natural resources,” Dawley said.

He visited the Alpena staff Jan. 16 to discuss how grants from the foundation have supported Huron Pines’ efforts in education, invasive species management and land protection.

“We have a good track record of taking local investment and leveraging outside funding for projects to benefit water quality, wildlife, infrastructure and recreation assets here,” Jensen said, crediting Besser Foundation as one instrumental partner so far. “Our work is able to benefit all parts of the community and through long-term efforts like our land protection program, those benefits will impact generations to come.”

Huron Pines land protection holdings include two public preserves in Presque Isle and Alcona counties and they will hold a conservation easement on 4 miles of coastline along Alpena’s North Point Peninsula beginning this year. The North Point property was purchased by The Nature Conservancy who will transfer ownership and management to the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

“We are thrilled to welcome Huron Pines to Alpena,” said Mary Beth Stutzman, president and CEO of Alpena Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Establishing a connection with coastal communities is an important goal for Huron Pines and their conservation efforts will greatly enhance work being done in our region.”

Huron Pines is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1973 to conserve and enhance Northern Michigan’s natural resources to ensure healthy water, protected places and vibrant communities. Huron Pines strives to improve economic, environmental, educational and recreational opportunities throughout Northern Michigan. To learn more, visit

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