A Land Protection Trifecta in Alpena

Two properties encompassing 168 acres of forests and wetlands on Birdsong Bay are now under the permanent protection of Huron Pines. They join the recently acquired North Point Nature Preserve in an ongoing effort by Huron Pines and its partners to protect the water quality of Lake Huron and ensure the preservation of its undeveloped coastal habitats long term.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) transferred ownership of the 153-acre Birdsong Bay Nature Preserve to Huron Pines in late December. Situated west of US-23 near the 45th parallel marker south of Alpena, the preserve includes cedar swamps and a globally rare wooded dune and swale complex, all of which support a diverse ecosystem of plants and wildlife native to Northern Michigan.

An aerial autumn view of Birdsong Bay Nature Preserve, where 153 acres of rare wetland habitats situated along US-23 South are under permanent protection by conservation nonprofit Huron Pines.

This transfer follows another made by TNC in December, when 1,400 acres on Thunder Bay’s North Point Peninsula were handed over to Huron Pines. The rugged preserve features four miles of Lake Huron coastline divided between Thunder Bay to the south and Misery Bay to the north, and wetlands home to carnivorous plants and the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly. Public events and engagement at the preserve will be done in cooperation with Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (TBNMS) and its affiliated nonprofit organization, Friends of TBNMS.

“Alpena’s unique coastal areas combined with rare habitats, islands, peninsulas, shipwrecks and recreational opportunities are what will define the region for many generations to come,” said Brad Jensen, Executive Director of Huron Pines. “The fact we have groups like The Nature Conservancy and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to help us protect and enjoy these places makes me feel good about the future. We at Huron Pines feel a tremendous responsibility to help people enjoy these special areas and also to protect them forever.”

Members of Thunder Bay Audubon Society explore North Point in May 2021. A guided birding hike is slated for May 2023 at the newly christened North Point Nature Preserve, a nearly 1,400-acre protected area on the northern rim of Thunder Bay.

“Our partnership with Huron Pines dates back years and they have been with us, side-by-side, helping create and implement a restoration plan for North Point that benefits both people and nature,” said Helen Taylor, state director for TNC in Michigan. “North Point truly is a gem, and these lands are undoubtedly in good hands.”

A third property, the KR Poljan Tract at Birdsong Bay, was gifted to Huron Pines in early January through a generous donation from the Richard Poljan estate. This 15-acre preserve at the southern base of Partridge Point offers a panoramic view of Birdsong Bay, and its marshlands are frequented by shorebirds and migratory waterfowl.

An icy aerial view of the KR Poljan Tract in December 2022. The marshlands of this 15-acre preserve are frequented by migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.
Richard Poljan holds a red drum, caught out of state. The late Michigander bought 15 acres on Birdsong Bay near Partridge Point in 2011 with the hope that it would be protected from development.

The preserve’s namesake, Richard J Poljan, was an architect for Huron-Clinton Metroparks and later had a long career at Ford Motor Company before retiring from Ford Motor Credit in 1996. An avid outdoorsman, Poljan obtained his real estate license and bought land, often through government tax sales. He acquired the property on Birdsong Bay from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in 2011 through public auction. Poljan died in July 2022.

According to his family, Poljan wanted to see that this property would be protected and shared with the local community. Huron Pines has plans to develop a raised overlook at the preserve to honor Poljan’s wishes and allow visitors to experience this unique coastal treasure.

“My siblings and I are pleased that we were able to work together to fulfill our father’s intent of preserving the Birdsong Bay property,” said Amy Knapp, Poljan’s daughter and trustee of his estate. “Huron Pines has been a great partner and will be good stewards of the beautiful land.”

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to protect this corner of Birdsong Bay for Alpena’s residents and visitors,” added Heather Huffstutler, Development Director for Huron Pines. “We’re considering options that will allow visitors to explore the bay for themselves in a way that protects its sensitive habitats and supports the public’s enjoyment and sense of place.”

All three preserves align with ongoing efforts by Huron Pines and its partners to safeguard coastal areas of Lake Huron from development. The organization’s Coastal Priority Zone stretches from Cheboygan County to the Au Sable River and represents a region rich with ecological, geological and cultural resources unique to the Great Lakes. Many local, state and national organizations are involved in this effort to conserve and manage lands for the benefit of natural communities and the people of Northern Michigan.

Huron Pines, TNC and the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan (CFNEM) have established an endowment fund to support the current and long term monitoring, management and protection of these preserves and other lands within the coastal priority zone.

Contribute to the Huron Conservation & Stewardship Fund

Access to North Point Nature Preserve is currently limited to guided tours only. Two public events are planned at the preserve in 2023, including a Big Birding Sit on May 13 and a grand opening on June 10. Follow Huron Pines on social media and check huronpines.org/events for details closer to those dates.

Access to Birdsong Bay Nature Preserve is limited to foot traffic only, via a two-track off Piper Road and DNR land to the west. Conditions are often wet and hard to navigate. The KR Poljan Tract does not currently have parking or access infrastructure. While Huron Pines works through the planning process, those looking for information about visiting the preserves can contact Huron Pines directly.

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