Grass River Natural Area
The Grass River Natural Area encompasses lakes, a meandering river, rushing streams and crystal clear creeks — a haven for plant and animal life, including both rare and endangered species.
Nestled in the hills of Antrim County in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the Grass River Natural Area (GRNA) encompasses lakes, a meandering river, rushing streams and crystal clear creeks — a haven for plant and animal life, including both rare and endangered species. This natural eco-guardian project lies midway on the renowned Chain of Lakes waterway, a connector of Torch and Clam lakes, and Lake Bellaire.
In the 1960’s, land developers began filling the wetlands in preparation for building sites. A handful of concerned county residents feared that destruction of the natural habitat and ecosystem would harm water quality, wildlife, flora and fauna. Their grassroots efforts and vision, led by Warren Studley, a soil scientist at the Antrim County Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, resulted in a plan that created one of Michigan’s premier nature preserves. Part of Warren’s vision to protect the wetlands was to create environmental education programs to teach future generations about the importance of caring for the wetlands.
Dozens of Antrim County residents supported Warren’s initial efforts to acquire four contiguous parcels of land that were to become the core of the Grass River Natural Area. The Nature Conservancy acquired the land and transferred it to Antrim County in 1977, where it is managed by a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Grass River Natural Area, Inc.
The work of GRNA is accomplished through the leadership of an eleven person board of directors, a full-time executive director, a part-time education
director and maintenance supervisor, and four parttime naturalist teachers. GRNA is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk and currently receives 30,000 visitors per year to its seven miles of hiking and crosscountry skiing trails. Over 1100 school children attend GRNA educational programs during the school year, and hundreds of children and adults attend the over 85 classes and events that are held in the summer. Part of GRNA’s mission is to offer free classes and events. In 2011, local schools were granted 383 scholarships so students could attend classes at little or no cost. In October 2011, after 10 years of fundraising, the GRNA opened an educational center.
In the future, GRNA’s sustainability will rely mainly on its many volunteers as it has for the past 42 years. The organization is fortunate that so many residents
and visitors remain staunch supporters. Most GRNA donors have strong emotional ties, through childhood and family memories, to the natural area. They help
sustain GRNA by passing those memories on to their children and grandchildren, thus creating new GRNA supporters.
For more information, visit grassriver.org or contact GRNA at (231) 533-8314.
“The Breezeway” is a rural ride along County Road 48 (CR-48) from US-31 in Atwood, through Ellsworth and East Jordan, and ending in Boyne Falls at US-131. The rural route boasts scenic views, recreation amenities, working farms and orchards, galleries, shopping, lodging, and restaurants.Read More