In appreciation of the giving spirit of Bud and Doris Leonard.
One-of-a-Kind GemsIn appreciation of the giving spirit of Bud and Doris Leonard.
“Welcome to Delton.” The sign’s impressive stone foundation and raised flowerbed speak to small town pride and hospitality. And its location makes sense once you learn that it stands on George (Bud) and Doris Leonard’s property, because the couple were well known for their generosity and deep community roots.
Not far from that sign, a row of picturesque little white cottages hugs the shore of Wall Lake, nearly as iconic as the welcome sign. They belonged to the Leonards, as did the pretty farmhouse across the street where the couple lived. A small wooden sign in its yard names it “Shadeland” and hints at the natural treasures beyond the roadside.
Recently, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy put the final touches on the George and Doris Leonard Shadeland Conservation Easement, forever protecting not only its roadside beauty, but also the 116 acres of natural habitat that lay beyond. The Leonards’ property perfectly expresses everything that makes Barry County a one-of-a-kind gem: rolling farmland, thousands of feet of frontage on two lakes, shimmering wetlands, peaceful old forests, and the crown jewel – a rare tamarack bog.
The bog is an unexpected treat, hidden from the road by steep, wooded slopes. Lush ferns crowd around a mat of sphagnum moss that surrounds the bog’s center. A track through oldfields studded with asters, milkweed, and goldenrod passes the old hangar where Bud kept his airplane. Heading west along farm fields, a shady footpath through the woods meets a wide tree-lined trail, once part of the now-defunct Chicago, Kalamazoo and Saginaw Railway. That railbed now ends somewhere in the big marsh at the edge of Jones/Mud Lake. Those who are lucky enough to have a canoe handy can slip through the wetland to explore a small island that’s covered by ancient black, red, and white oaks.
Bud and Doris were appreciated for their dedication and loyal service to the community. Both served on numerous boards over the years and volunteered for many community organizations, including the library and local ambulance service. Doris directed choir and played piano at their church, while Bud served as president of the local historical society. Both valued education so much that they set up the Doris and Bud Leonard Scholarship for Delton students through the Barry County Community Foundation. They left most of their estate to local kids through the scholarship, classroom grants, and more.
SWMLC had worked with the Leonards since the mid 1990s toward placing a conservation easement on their beautiful farm, though neither Bud nor Doris lived to see the final paperwork completed. Their cherished caretaker, Sandy Barker, became trustee after their passing and worked with SWMLC to complete the easement, just as they had planned. Sandy emphasized, “Bud and Doris both dearly loved Wall Lake and the land around it, they both cared for the history of Delton, and, with no children, they shared their legacy with the community.”
And though the land remains private and is not a public preserve, the conservation easement that the Leonards placed on it will protect it forever, no matter who owns it. Indeed, Bud’s and Doris’ legacy lives on in this final, generous gift that protects nature while ensuring that the entrance to their beloved Delton remains inviting and natural forever.
“I’m honored to have been a part of their conservation legacy.”
This is what we do. SWMLC helps families like the Leonards explore their land protection options to see if conservation is right for them. As a community-supported organization, YOU make this possible. Your desire to conserve special, natural places in Michigan has protected over 17,000 acres in the last 29 years. Together, we are making a difference.
Curious about land protection options? Click here for information on how Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy can help you protect your land. Or give us a call at 269-324-1600 or request a confidential conversation with one of our land protection specialists, Justin Gish or Kaleigh Winkler.
Landscape photos by Hilary Hunt and Bruce Howe. Portrait of Bud and Doris courtesy of the Leonard Estate.