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Grant Awarded to Secure Hickory Forest Natural Area

by Colleen Paveglio
Friday, December 3, 2021

Grant Awarded to Secure Hickory Forest Natural Area

The City of Traverse City is pleased to announce that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) board approved a $467,600 grant for the proposed Hickory Forest Natural Area, ensuring the permanent protection of the nearly 80 acre woodland. The required matching dollars for the Trust Fund grant were secured when the voters in the City of Traverse City and Charter Township of Garfield overwhelmingly approved an operating millage for the Joint Recreational Authority in November 2020.  Hickory Forest Natural Area will further expand the public natural area at Hickory Hills and Hickory Meadows for land preservation and passive recreational use. 

The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conversancy, which has worked to protect the land is developing a management plan for the significant parcel, which will soon be owned by the Recreational Authority and enjoyed by all.

In 2020, an opportunity arose to acquire and preserve additional property next to Hickory Hills and Hickory Meadows. A millage request to the citizens of the City of Traverse City and Charter Township of Garfield passed in November 2020 and provided the Recreational Authority the capacity to pursue grant funds and provide matching dollars for the public purchase of the property and its subsequent management and care, balancing the inherent conservation values of the property with passive recreational use.

The mileage request provided local matching fund for the purchase of Hickory Forest, an 80-acre natural woodland that

  • Provide funding to leverage further the preservation, renovation, and maintenance needs for the two barns at Historic Barns Park. 
  • Support fundraising efforts at Historic Barns Park by providing assurance to donors that the Rec Authority will continue its mission beyond 2024. 
  • Ensure the ability of the Rec Authority to continue operations beyond the expiration of its current operating millage in 2024.


2003 – The City of Traverse City and Charter Township of Garfield Recreational Authority (Rec Authority) incorporated through joint action of Traverse City (City) and Garfield Charter Township (Township). 2004 – Electorate of City and Township approved 20-year Operating and Debt Service millages by 3-1 margin for the acquisition and preservation of three properties: 

  • West Bay Waterfront – Purchase of a 0.5-acre parcel on West Grand Traverse Bay and the demolition/reclamation of the building and property to complete the public Open Space on the waterfront; 
  • Hickory Meadows – Purchase of a 112-acre parcel adjoining City-owned parkland (Hickory Hills to the west) for passive public recreation; and 
  • Historic Barns Park – A 56-acre parcel transferred to the Rec Authority focusing on preservation action around two large historic barns.

2005-2017 – Through partnerships and community support, goals and objectives achieved: 

Historic Barns Park reborn as a community hub for gardening, education, events and outdoor recreation; 

  • Hickory Meadows is open space with fields, forests and trails for hiking and cross country skiing. Recently partnered with City in redevelopment of adjacent Hickory Hills; and 
  • West Bay Waterfront is incorporated open space with adjacent City parkland along West Grand Traverse Bay. 2018 – Public visioning process undertaken through Beckett & Raeder to determine next steps for consideration by the Rec Authority (see the 2019 Public Visioning Report on the Rec Authority’s website at Outcome of visioning process in broad terms: 
  • Finish what was started, especially regarding the preservation and use of facilities at the Historic Barns Park; 
  • Be open to possibilities of acquisition of new park properties; and 
  • Maintain fiscal stability in the operation of the Rec Authority by requesting a new 20-year Operating Millage sooner than the current 2024 expiration to assure continuation and continuity of services.