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SWMLC Awarded Purchase Grants

Funding will go toward purchase and protection of the Armintrout-Milbocker property near Allegan.

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is excited to announce that we were recently awarded two substantial grants toward purchase and protection of this spectacular riverside property!

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy’s future Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve has been included as one of fourteen projects proposed for funding in the Natural Resources Trustees draft restoration plan as part of the Kalamazoo River Natural Resources Damages Assessment (NRDA) settlement funds. Under the draft plan, SWMLC would receive $1 million toward the purchase of this beautiful 140-acre property to create a nature preserve just outside Downtown Allegan along the west bank of the Kalamazoo River. The public comment period for the draft plan concluded on May 14, and based on comments received, the Natural Resources Trustees are preparing to finalize the plan, after which they will begin funding projects.

Location of the future Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve | NWS ARMN

The heart of this spectacular piece of land is 100 upland acres of mostly pine and oak forest, fringed with 40 acres of diverse wetlands, over three miles of walking trails and three miles of frontage along the Kalamazoo River. The property is incredibly biodiverse, with at least 150 plant species, and over 60 bird species counted thus far.

NWS ARMN | The future Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve will offer an extensive trail system.

The Armintrout and Milbocker families have discussed conserving their family property with SWMLC for the past 20 years. In 2020, SWMLC applied for multiple sources of funding that included two large grants to raise the funds necessary to finally purchase this property to create a nature preserve for Allegan and the surrounding community.

The largest source of funding toward the purchase are the NRDA settlement funds, awarded by the Kalamazoo River Trustees. The source of these funds are settlements with companies whose PCB emissions contaminated an 80-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River. The purchase of Armintrout is one of 14 projects proposed between Kalamazoo and Lake Michigan that would rehabilitate wildlife habitat harmed by the PCB pollution. The Kalamazoo River Trustees’ recommendations regarding the allocation of the NRDA funding are expected to be finalized in early June 2021.

NWS ARMN | The future Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve will offer an extensive trail system.

“SWMLC is incredibly grateful to the Kalamazoo River Trustees for their leadership and financial support for the acquisition of the Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve property. We believe that protecting and restoring this important property is an excellent use of the settlement funds that will protect critical biodiversity and provide impactful environmental and recreational benefits,” stated Hilary Hunt, SWMLC Director of Land Protection.

NWS ARMN | The future Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve will offer an extensive trail system.

Separately, in early May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Community Forest Program (CFP) announced a $400,000 grant to SWMLC to aid in the purchase of the Armintrout-Milbocker property. The CFP grant is aimed at protecting the property for use as a Community Forest, defined as a community resource which promotes recreational, environmental, economic and educational benefits.

SWMLC has convened an advisory committee and is working with a diverse cross-section of representatives from the community that will not only provide guidance in creating a natural area alternative to the Allegan State Game Area, but will also support the economic health of the City of Allegan, which is working to promote outdoor recreation and tourism activities. In addition, SWMLC has been strategizing with teachers and administrators from the Allegan Public Schools about how to integrate the Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve into the curriculum for local K-12 students for subjects like environmental science, language arts, media, and more.

NWS ARMN | The future Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve will offer an extensive trail system.
NWS ARMN | The future Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve will offer an extensive trail system.

“I’m extremely pleased to participate in this effort to create a new natural area along the Kalamazoo River. The preserve, located less than five minutes from downtown Allegan, will be easily accessible and a tremendous opportunity for residents, especially Allegan youth, to discover nature,” stated Kevin Harness, Advisory Committee member and retired Superintendent of Allegan Public Schools.

Additional funding that is instrumental to the acquisition is provided by a US Fish & Wildlife Service North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant as well as a significant donation made by the Armintrout and Milbocker families.

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is very grateful to have received this support!
Once the purchase is complete, we will reach out to the community to raise money to create public access infrastructure and to care for the natural areas on the preserve.
NWS ARMN | Armintrout-Milbocker's steep, forested banks are a rarity along the Kalamazoo River, which is relatively flat for much of its course.

Drone photo: Bruce Howe.
Other photos: Amelia Hansen, Hilary Hunt, Mitch Lettow