Former Camp Maplehurst opens to the public as Natural Area

Tom Vranich, Contributing Writer

Photo by Tom Vranich

Conservancy and Township officials gather around the new Maplehurst Natural Area kiosk during grand opening ceremonies. Pictured (from left) are: GTRLC’s Jon and Orson Throop, Milton Township Parks and Recreation Committee member Bob Kingon, trustee Tom Cole, Park and Recreation Committee Chair Dick Gray, Treasurer and Parks Committee member Liz Atkinson, GTRLC Executive Director Glen Chown, Milton Township Supervisor Lon Bargy, GTRLC’s Kate Pearson, Chris Garrock and Marissa Duque, trustee Brett Pharo, Township Zoning Administrator Chris Winzapfel, GTRLC’s Barb Heflin, township attorney Bill Derman, GTRLC’s John Collins, and Milton Parks Manager Jim Riegler.


REGION – Officials from Milton Township and Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) gathered on Saturday, June 15 to celebrate the grand opening of the Maplehurst Natural Area, a 400-acre property bordering Waring Road and N. West Torch Lake Drive that served as Maplehurst Camp for youth from 1955 to 2011.

Visitors to the event were treated to beverages and homemade baked goods, along with comments from GTRLC’s Executive Director Glen Chown and Milton Township Parks and Recreation Committee representative Bob Kingon, both key players in the camp acquisition and planning for its future use.

“Look at these views!” Chown exclaimed in his remarks. “Standing here you can see Elk Lake, Torch Lake and East Grand Traverse Bay, not to mention the lovely gem Lake Maplehurst. With 400 acres, everything that made this a great place for a camp, make it an incredible place for a natural area. And, the thickly forested ridge serves an important role in filtering water that runs into Torch Lake.”

Grand Opening event visitors were also invited to hike the property with GTRLC volunteers to see new trail work and enjoy the natural area’s many unique views.

Through a purchase agreement made in 2015 between GTRLC, Milton Township and camp owners the Cohen family, with the help of a Dole Family Foundation grant, the township applied for a Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. In December 2016 a DNR grant of $1.9 million was awarded. With actual disbursement of grant funds about two years out and time needed to raise another $2 million to complete the purchase, a low-interest loan made possible through the Oleson family allowed planning to move forward.

A May 2016 survey mailed to Milton Township residents provided Kingon and others on the Parks and Recreation Committee 70 percent support to acquire Maplehurst, along with input for park natural area amenities that included as priorities hiking trails, restrooms, a pavilion, fishing, and swimming.

This summer, the township expects to complete 3.5 miles of trails and an additional 2.7 miles next year, according to Kingon, in part thanks to a Health Department of Northwest Michigan $15,000 grant.

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