Jon Vanderbeek began by making his own map of trails in the area between Lake Michigan and downtown Saugatuck. After expanding to all of the greater Saugatuck-Douglas area he began to see a larger picture. He imagined new connections between trails, as well as with popular local destinations. The only thing stopping the public from enjoying these future paths was making deals with willing landowners. In Jon’s words:
"We follow a boots-on-the-ground approach to conservation and trail access. We try to understand the underlying geology and landscapes, rather than just looking at street layouts and property development. If you study parcel maps you can find the natural features and wooded lots that remain. There are hundreds of acres of opportunity!”
Glenna DeJong, Chris Clark, Jon Vanderbeek and Betsy York
RiverWood Council would prefer to conserve large tracts of land. If that’s not possible, we will negotiate hiking trail easements with landowners to ensure public access through the woods. Local municipalities and conservation groups help with easements and deeds, so we have many tools and lots of support!
Previous major conservations like Tallmadge Woods, Mount Baldhead, Peterson Preserve, and the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area were spearheaded by a few concerned local citizens, like us. We don’t have the kind of constraints that municipalities have. Volunteers can get things started with landowners, then conservation organizations, municipalities, and the state come in with support.
Development is exploding to the point where there will soon be no more large tracts of natural land left to preserve. We study the landscape and work with landowners to strike a balance between conservation and development. The Trail Master Plan is committed to preserving the future for our communities.