Fruithaven Nature Preserve
For more than 50 years since William McKinley purchased 551 acres north of Upper Herring Lake in 1945, his family operated Fruithaven Orchard on a spread that was a mix of orchards, fields and forested ridges. When the McKinleys were ready to give up their agrarian way of life in the late 1990s, developers from southern Michigan made an offer to purchase the farm with plans to build a pair of 18-hole golf courses, hotel and an airstrip.
Sparing the area from commercial development was paramount to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC). The conservancy first convinced the family to apply for Purchase of Development Rights funds through the state of Michigan. But when the application process dragged on, GTRLC stepped in and purchased the property. Eventually, the development rights to 360 acres of farmland were sold to ensure the land stays in agricultural production. But 176 acres was designated as Fruithaven Forest Reserve, now known as Fruithaven Nature Preserve.
Fruithaven is linked with GTRLC’s Upper Herring Lake Nature Preserve — together they protect 256 acres of the Herring Lakes Watershed. Other than an old farm field and the hardwood wetlands in the Herring Creek floodplain, Fruithaven is a broken terrain of ridges and valleys covered by a mesic northern forest of predominately sugar maples, American beech and hemlocks. Wildlife that might be encountered ranges from whitetail deer and coyotes to wild turkeys, indigo buntings and pileated woodpeckers.
Originally, Fruithaven was accessed by nearly 2 miles of existing two-tracks. But the old forest roads were poorly marked, hard to follow and required backtracking. In 2014, a 0.7-mile loop was built from the trailhead on Herron Road that utilizes only a short segment of a two-track. While the loop features almost 100 feet in elevation, the climbs are gentle and reward hikers, and snowshoers, with a glimpse of the wetlands that Herring Creek flows through.
|Difficulty - Easy|