Former golf course a gift that keeps on giving


Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

For  many golfers, it was an Up North jewel that tantalized the senses, particularly the sights to be seen from the first tee of the magnificent 18-hole layout located halfway between Petoskey and Harbor Springs.

For nearly three decades, Little Traverse Bay Golf Club was a must-play course for golfers of all abilities, principally because of the spectacular scenery that it offered from virtually every angle and outpost.
Breathtaking views of Little Traverse Bay served as the main entrée, while also on the visual menu were dramatic vistas spiced with shots of the Inland Waterway.

Now, after being a “bucket-list” item for golfers across the Midwest, Little Traverse has been remade – into a 290-acre nature preserve.

The transformation took less than three months, turning a once meticulously manicured golf course into a “working forest reserve” that now is open to the public for hiking, running, biking, birding, and just plain gawking.

The property, which is near the Nub’s Nob and Boyne Highlands ski resorts, became part of the Little Traverse Conservancy earlier this year. Fittingly, the nonprofit organization took over ownership of the land on Earth Day (April 22), thanks in large part to the generosity of the Offield Family Foundation.

The Offield Foundation, which traces its roots to the Wrigley gum fortune, reportedly made a seven-figure donation to the Conservancy to help make the $2 million purchase possible, while other donors – big and small – also have stepped up to aid the cause.

“The new Offield Family Viewlands will benefit thousands of people who live in or visit our community, with trails and many other recreational opportunities, forever,” said Conservancy Executive Director Kieran Fleming in a column appearing in the summer issue of the organization’s newsletter.

“Working with the Offield family on this project was incredibly inspiring. The whole family wanted to give to our community now when things might otherwise look kind of bleak. We are still raising funds for this project, but we are on our way to transforming it into what we believe is going to be our most popular LTC land.”

The Conservancy’s newest addition “offers extraordinary views of Little Traverse Bay and the Inland Waterway,” according to Fleming, who noted that the golf course originally had been purchased by a real estate investor. The Conservancy, in turn, approached the investor about a possible sale so that the property could be protected in perpetuity.

“We cannot overstate the impact that the Offield family and its foundation had on the protection of our region’s lands,” Fleming said in the newsletter.

“For decades, their land ethic has left an imprint on this area that many probably take for granted. We are thrilled that we could name this reserve to honor the foresight and generosity they have shown for so long.”

Such philanthropy comes at a time destined to be remembered, said Fleming.

“We all need access to the natural world, especially now,” Fleming said as the U.S. continues to reel from the effects of the pandemic.

“This is a place close to many towns where you and your family will soon be able to explore at a safe distance from others. Imagine a picnic while overlooking Little Traverse Bay or a senior portrait taken from the top of the hill with the bay or the Inland Waterway as the backdrop.”

Those imaginings are now on daily display high above Little Traverse Bay, where a new era of nature loving is just beginning to take shape.


Subscribe to the Legal News!

Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more

Day Pass Only $4.95!

One-County $80/year

Three-County & Full Pass also available