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Trail Updates at Chipman Preserve


A confusing labyrinth untangled!

We have untangled Chipman Preserve’s confusing labyrinth of parallel paths, closed badly eroded sections of trail, improved habitat for wildlife by creating “quiet zones,” enriched the preserve’s ecology by allowing native plants to thrive, and generally improved the experience of trail users.

We’re excited to announce that even though we still want haven’t polished off all the finishing touches, Chipman Preserve’s new-and-improved trail system is ready to use! Color-coded markers posted along the trail will help users know which path they’re on and a current trail map has been posted at the trailhead. In the future, we will install “You Are Here” maps along the trail like the ones we have at Black River and Portman Nature Preserves, which will help hikers orient themselves. Please stop by and give it a spin!

Chipman Preserve’s upated trail system, August 2021. Click the image for a printable PDF version.
When asked why we decided to make changes to a trail system that had been in place for 17 years, SWMLC Stewardship Director Mitch Lettow said this, “For many years the trail system at Chipman has been confusing, especially for new preserve users. New visitors to the preserve often got lost, and we have answered several phone calls over the years from people who needed help finding their way back to the parking lot.
“Our two main jobs at our publicly accessible preserves are to 1) take care of the habitat and wildlife which the preserve was originally protected to save and 2) create an enjoyable experience for the public. As it turns out, too many trails can be tough on the ecology of the site. Often, birds won’t nest in areas that are disturbed too often by people walking or off-leash dogs. Trails can be entry points for invasive plant species like multiflora rose, autumn olive, and bush honeysuckle. And poorly-designed and badly-maintained trails can also lead to erosion. Erosion is not only a negative thing for the ecology of the soil, but some of our trails were actually getting dangerous in spots because of the extensive erosion. As the preserve has grown in popularity, many of the trails that held up well to occasional use by neighbors back when the Chipman family owned the property are just not holding up to the increased impact of many more feet.
“Simplifying the trail system allows us to take better care of what we’ve already committed to. And at the end of our updates, Chipman Preserve will still offer 5.5 miles of trail for hiking, dog-walking, trail-running, snow-shoeing, and cross-country skiing – more than that at any other preserve we own.
“As a non-profit organization, we rely on memberships and donations to keep our lights on – and to maintain our nature preserves. Providing a public preserve like Chipman (in addition to our other 15 public nature preserves, all of which are open all year round and have no admission fee) with a funding model like this is a big challenge.”

If you enjoy Chipman Preserve and want to help “keep its lights on”, please consider making a donation to Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy or becoming a member. In doing so, you will join the many other folks who also love nature and are taking action to make sure that it will always be here for people and wildlife. Thank you!