Group racing to save Harbert Road Woods from further development

NOW: Group racing to save Harbert Road Woods from further development

HARBERT, Mich. -- A group of Berrien County residents is trying to save a sacred part of land just off Lake Michigan from being developed.

Harbert Road Woods is between The Woods Preserve and Harbert Woods Preserve, two areas already protected by Chikaming Open Lands. Harbert Road Woods, they say, is the missing piece.

Brooke Long moved to Harbert this August and immediately felt a calling to the land that surrounded her.

“Within the first week that I moved here we heard the chainsaws cutting down these trees, and we learned that the owner of this land was opening it up to sell,” she said.

Long then connected with her new neighbors to see if there was any way to buy the land before it was lost.

But, they learned that would come with a hefty price tag.

“We’ve got $1.2 million out of the $1.4 million that we needed to acquire all 14 acres,” said Long. “We started with yard signs, we created a website and then we started to work with local businesses – Red Arrow Roasters created a coffee line just for us.”

Chikaming Open Lands, a non-profit dedicated to preservation in Harbor Country, negotiated with the current owner of the property on Harbor Road Woods, and discovered along the way what a vital part of the ecosystem it plays.

“This forest area is a Beech-maple forest, which is dominant in this area, there’s also significant wetlands on this property and they’re a key ecosystem to help filter water that ultimately drains into Lake Michigan,” said Executive Director Ryan Postema.

Saving the woods not only preserves the land, but honors the history of the Pokagon tribe that inhabited this area long before.

“The name Chikaming means ‘by the big water,’ referring to Lake Michigan,” said Postema. “The natural history with the Native Americans – their entire focus was living with the land, taking care of the land, and we look at that as our mission.”

Organizers have until March 15 to raise $1.4 million. To donate, click here.

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