Access: open to the public
Parking: gravel lot
Trails: Two 3/4-mile loops of moderate trails wind through forest and meadows, affording scenic vistas.
Watch the Public Media Network’s video on Wolf Tree Nature Preserve:
Wolf Tree Nature Trails is located on KL Avenue in Oshtemo Township, just east of the intersection with 4th Street on the south side of the road.
This important natural open space on the west side of Kalamazoo contains scraps of presettlement black oak barrens remain on this property, as well as wooded uplands that are crowded with warblers during spring migration. The uncommon and interesting plant, American Columbo, has been identified in one portion of the forest. SWMLC has been working to enlarge the scope and depth of the oak barren habitat by clearing brushy invasives and planting the seeds of prairie species.
SWMLC is extremely grateful to Oshtemo Township resident, Richard Malott for donating the property in 2011,” says SWMLC Executive Director Peter Ter Louw. “We are glad to be able to honor Dr. Malott’s desire for this to be a wonderful natural place for people, and we believe that the new name not only speaks to the natural beauty and history of the land, but also makes it clear that it is a place for people to enjoy.”
Since 2011, SWMLC has been hard at work planning trails, mapping natural communities, running field trips, and restoring habitat with volunteers, staff, and contractors. The KL Avenue Nature Preserve has been a true community conservation project, garnering support from SWMLC volunteers, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, the Hanes Foundation, employees of Pfizer Corporation and PNC Bank, Oshtemo Township, the Oshtemo Township and Mattawan Fire Departments, the Michigan Botanical Club, Audubon Society of Kalamazoo, the Great Lakes Adventure Club, and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Todd Sanford and Sanford Financial Services, Generation III Excavating, Native Landscapes, Native Connections, Hidden Savanna Nursery, not to mention the steadfast commitment of Dr. Malott.
Initially, this property was known as “KL Avenue Preserve”, a plain moniker that seemed to merely place it on a map. In search of a name that better reflected the true value and importance of this special natural area to people and the community, SWMLC launched a public naming contest in the spring of 2016. We received over 100 entries in the re-naming contest and even more votes for the top ten submissions.
The winning name “Wolf Tree Nature Trails”, was submitted by Autumn Malmquist-Mellinger. The name honors southwest Michigan’s natural heritage, and provides an opportunity for discussion and education about the natural history of the region, what it used to look like, and why it is important to protect some of our most intact natural areas that are left.
“Wolf Tree” refers to old trees (frequently oaks) with low-spreading limbs – often with a gnarly and weathered appearance. These trees have round shapes and low-spreading limbs because they used to grow alone in wide open spaces like savannas and pastures. These “lone wolves” are now more often found in overgrown woods among young, fast-growing trees, which eventually crowd-out the wolf trees. Several of these old wolf trees are present on the KL Avenue property, and offer an indicator of a restorable oak savanna ecosystem from a bygone era. A very interesting article on wolf trees may be found at www.AmericanForests.org.