North Woods Conservancy obtains bridge loan from Mott Foundation
CALUMET -- The North Woods Conservancy (NWC) has obtained a bridge loan from
the new Great Lakes Revolving Loan Fund (GLRLF) to complete the purchase of
Seven Mile Point for $361,400.
A view of the Lake Superior shoreline from Seven Mile Point,
looking south along the coast. (Photo by Michael Jordan of DLP Photographic in Owosso, MI)
The purpose of the new fund, established by a $3.975 million grant from the
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and administered by The Conservation Fund, is to
provide local land trusts like the NWC, as well as government agencies, with the
means to respond quickly to land acquisition or conservation easement
Based in Calumet, the North Woods Conservancy is a 200 member, 501c3
organization founded in 1992. It is the first organization to receive funds from
the new GLRLF. The Mott Foundation anticipates increasing its commitment to the
revolving fund by up to another $3.75 million in the coming years. This is the
largest environmental grant in the Foundationís history.
NWC President John Griffith said the $361,400 bridge loan for Seven Mile
Point is an amount normally well out of reach for the small, all volunteer NWC.
Seven Mile Point is located seven miles south and west of Eagle River, the
Keweenaw County seat. The parcel purchased contains 32 acres, including 1,506
feet of Lake Superior shoreline consisting of volcanic cobble, basaltic bedrock
and beautiful sand beach.
"To complete the purchase, the NWC raised 10 percent in cash, received a
$100,000 grant from the Lake Superior Basin Trust and obtained the GLRLF bridge
loan for the balance, which must be repaid on or before November 2003,"
At a minimum, Seven Mile Point will be open to the public on weekends from
Memorial Day to Labor Day, and for periods in the winter and fall. When the area
is open to the public, NWC will provide a volunteer to be present onsite. When
it is closed, the access road to Seven Mile Point will be gated.
"The purchase of Seven Mile Point simply could not have been
accomplished without the GLRLF, or the NWC members and Keweenaw residents who to
date have contributed $30,000 toward the $36,140 cash fundraising goal,"
Until Lake Superior Land Company built a road to Seven Mile Point about 1994
as part of the Seven Mile Point subdivision development, Griffith explained, the
closest vehicular access was the Sunset Bay Campground, from which campers and
visitors could hike down a shoreline trail or the beach to the point.
"From the 1940s into the 1990s, campground owner Pete Lukonich often
delivered campers by boat to the point, or beyond toward the Gratiot River, to
be retrieved in the evening after a full day of sun, waves and agate
picking," Griffith added.
Prior to development, several parties including the North Woods Conservancy
attempted to purchase the entire Seven Mile Bay, from Sunset Bay south and west
to and including Seven Mile Point. Unfortunately, these attempts failed; the
land simply was not for sale for preservation.
When lot lines were drawn, most of the 24 planned lots were narrow, deep
10-acre parcels with lake frontages of 200-300 feet. The last lot, Lot 24, was
unique: It contained about 32 acres and 1,506 feet of Lake Superior frontage,
including a small cobble beach on the west side, the point itself (made up of
exposed 1.1 billion year old basaltic bedrock) and a long stretch of sand beach
on the east side of the point. It seems the then-owner of Lake Superior Land
Company (LSLC) considered Seven Mile Point to be the most attractive of all the
LSLC holdings, and planned to build his mansion there. Before this could be
done, LSLC was sold to Champion International, and Lot 24 remained untouched.
In the fall of 2000, NWC again inquired about purchasing Seven Mile Point.
The listed sale price ($753,000) was prohibitively expensive, but recent sales
convinced Griffith that a new appraisal would yield a more reasonable price, and
it did: $361,400. Still, that amount was beyond the reach of the organization,
so the NWC mailed an information packet with a description and photos of Seven
Mile Point and a plea for assistance or ideas to a variety of individuals,
foundations, organizations and agencies.
As a result of the mailing, Peg Kohring of The Conservation Fund -- an
Arlington, Va.-based conservation organization with a Midwest office in Sawyer,
Michigan -- visited the Keweenaw Peninsula in January 2001. Kohring was
enthusiastic about the Keweenaw Peninsula in general and Seven Mile Point in
particular, because of its listing by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory as
one of the top three sites for preservation in the region (for its basaltic
bedrock and volcanic cobble lakeshore and associated habitats), and because the
parcel adjoins a mile of shoreline and about 2000 interior acres of protected
private and State Forest land.
Seven Mile Point is high on Michigan's priority list
for conservation because of the unique plant and animal
communities associated with its 1.1 billion-year-old basaltic lava
flow lakeshore. (Photo courtesy Michael Jordan of DLP Photographic in Owosso, MI)
Shortly after Kohringís visit, a purchase agreement was negotiated between
the North Woods Conservancy and Lake Superior Land Company for the acquisition
of Seven Mile Point for $361,400. The agreement included a provision that each
of the 22 other Seven Mile Point lot owners be contacted and their unanimous
consent for NWC ownership of Lot 24 be obtained.
NWC board member Jane Griffith accomplished this task over a period of seven
months. In the process, a rough outline for preserve management, acceptable to
both the lot owners over whose properties the access road crosses, and the NWC,
The final $6,140 in cash must be raised as soon as possible. Donations (only
61 more $100 donors are needed) can be sent to the address
The Mott Foundation's revolving fund will provide organizations like NWC with
access to short-term loans to assist with the purchase of ecologically
significant areas, as well as the purchase of conservation easements on such
properties. Technical assistance also will be available to facilitate the
"This grant is a tremendous leap forward from what we have had
available," said Kohring. "Our conservation efforts can now move to a
whole new level. We can look at larger blocks of land and be more systematic in
the preservation of ecologically significant sites."
The Mott Foundation has been active in funding environmental projects in the
Great Lakes Basin, including protection of freshwater ecosystems, for nearly 20
"The revolving loan fund provides a significant new tool for preserving
coastal and freshwater features that are unique to the Great Lakes,"
Foundation President William S. White said. "We are pleased that this grant
will help conservation organizations and government agencies work with willing
sellers to protect such places."
Based on the initial grant from the Mott Foundation, the revolving fund is
expected to protect $15 million worth of land value in the coming five years.
After Mott completes its commitment to the fund, the value of the land to be
protected should increase to $25 million in that time span.
The revolving fund will be administered by TCF, which acts to protect
wildlife habitat, working landscapes and community open space by working in
partnership with organizations, public agencies, foundations, corporations and
individuals. Since 1990, TCF has managed $45 million in revolving loan funds
that have been used for 400 land acquisitions, all without a single default on a
The Mott Foundation, established in 1926 in Flint by an automotive pioneer,
is a private philanthropy committed to supporting projects that promote a just,
equitable and sustainable society. It supports nonprofit programs throughout the
United States, and on a limited geographic basis, internationally. Grantmaking
is focused in four programs: Civil Society, Environment, Flint and Pathways Out
of Poverty. The Foundation, with year-end assets of $2.47 billion, made 647
grants totaling $130 million in 2001.
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