Webster Twp Completes Land Preservation Project

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Under the agreement, the property is still under private ownership and use, but can never be developed. The land is currently used for raising grass-fed beef.

From Barry Lonik

The Webster Township Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program recently closed on a conservation easement purchase from Base Lake Farm LLC.

The property is just shy of 204 acres in size with frontage on the south side of Strawberry Lake Rd. and the north side of Walsh Rd. It features 180 acres of prime and locally important agricultural soils with 18 acres of woods and six acres of wetlands. Combined with other protected properties, the property forms a contiguous block totaling 554 acres. The conservation easement ensures that the land will never be developed but it remains in private ownership and is not open to the public.

Bill Brinkerhoff and Kathy Sample, members of the Base Lake Farm LLC, purchased the 258-acre farm at 7861 Strawberry Lake Rd. in 2015. Bill’s family has had a cottage on nearby Base Line Lake for decades. They have long admired the beautiful rolling hills and woods of the farm. The farm was once owned by Carl Rosenfeld and was the source of the beef for his noted Detroit restaurant Carl’s Chop House. Bill and Kathy have been restoring the houses and farm buildings and currently rent the property to a young farmer who is raising grass-fed cattle. They conveyed a conservation easement on a wooded section of the property in 2019. This easement protects the agricultural areas of the farm.

The 204-acre parcel consists of 180 acres of farmland, 18 acres of woods, and 6 acres of wetlands.

With the easement completed, Bill and Kathy will be able to continue and expand their efforts to achieve long term goals for the farm, including:

  • Keeping the property undeveloped
  • Maintaining the beauty, pastoral views and infinite horizon feature of the farm property
  • Demonstrating best farming practices (move away from monoculture, fertilizer, pesticide, GMO farming and towards more sustainable farming practices)
  • Building a financially self-sufficient or income generating farm model
  • Creating a more open and welcoming farm for others to explore and learn about farming, and enjoy the beauty of the farm.

Bill and Kathy also started and own Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor, an everyday farmers market with two locations that has paid out over $10 million to local farms and food producers since 2014.

Conservation easements are permanent deed restrictions on the use of a property. Purchasing easements cost less than buying the property, and keeps the property on the tax rolls and contributing to the local economy.

The preservation will help keep a large section of Walsh Rd in its bucolic splendor.

In addition to Webster Township’s dedicated land preservation millage, funding support was supplied by the Washtenaw County Natural Area Preservation Program, the State of Michigan Agricultural Preservation Fund, and the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. The landowners also discounted the sale price from the appraised value.

Webster Township’s land preservation program is funded by a dedicated millage which voters passed initially in 2005 and renewed twice, all by large margins. The Township has attracted over $13 million of matching funds from other sources, a rate of over $5 to $1 of its own. With this project, the Township program has been involved in protecting 2,340 acres, with more projects set to close in the coming months.

Photos courtesy of Barry Lonik.

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