Beal Tree Plantation
To reach Beal Plantation you head east on M-72 and just beyond the I-75 overpass turn into the Grayling Industrial Park. Within this cluster of warehouses, offices and manufacturing plants, across the street from AuSable Construction and next door to the Alro Steel loading docks, is a small tract of woods.
There is a reason for that. You’ve arrived at a historical site, what many believe is the oldest documented tree plantation in North America.
In 1888, not long after lumberjacks had turned most of Northern Michigan into a wasteland of stumps, William Beal arrived in Grayling and set up an 80-acre experiment tree station here on the edge of town. Beal planted 41 species of trees and experimented by cultivating some seedlings and not treating the land for others.
Michigan State University's first professor of botany wanted to know which trees and which method would be the most suitable ones to re-forest Michigan. As one interpretive plaque noted "this was perhaps the first step towards forest management in Michigan" and early recognition of how to recover from the era of exploitative logging.
A century later the result of Beal's work is obvious. Today more than half of the state is covered by 19 million acres of forest of which 35 percent of it is in public ownership.
Only 7.4 acres of the original plantation remains but in 2000 the Department of Natural Resources and several groups honored Beal by upgrading the quarter-mile trail into a ADA path, built a parking area and installed a handful of displays.
The walk is short and easy, making it an ideal place to take young children for their first lesson in tree identification. In the winter, Beal Plantation is where locals head for a quick snowshoe trek after work.
But this small preserve should also be a pilgrimage for anybody who loves to wander the woods of Northern Michigan.
Even if it is in the middle of an industrial park.
|Difficulty - Easy|