Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bigford Family Conservation Easement on the Pere Marquette

Paul Bigford
Paul Bigford
photo credit Danielle Fogel
excerpted from the newsletter of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, "Bigford Family Preserve Pere Marquette River Frontage," Fall 2008

Paul Bigford knows every bend and curve of the Pere Marquette River as it meanders through his family’s 150 acres. Ever since he was a young boy he has been exploring the banks and enjoying the natural beauty and rich history of the area. In December, the Bigford family worked with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan to permanently protect their land with a conservation easement. [see West Michigan Land Conservancy Aids in Protecting Pere Marquette Acres]

In 1958 Paul’s grandfather, Harold Bigford, purchased 200 acres on the Pere Marquette for $20,000. As the eldest grandchild, Paul helped his grandfather with numerous projects including restoring the 1916 house on the property, building fences, and picking up trash on the south side of the river where Harold had created a camping area for the public to use, free of charge.

“Working and protecting the land got into my blood during the summers that I was grandpa’s go-fer,” Paul explains. Harold passed away in the fall of 1964. Paul’s father inherited the land, but unfortunately not before 50 acres on the south side of the river was sold off.

The next summer 14-year-old Paul was in Baldwin with his family for the “Troutarama” festival. He spotted a flyer in the window of a realty office advertising riverfront land for sale and instantly recognized the map - he had traced the path of the river through his grandfather’s property many times and entertained himself by creating maps. The 50 acres including the camping area) sold when Harold passed away were split up into 21 lots that were for sale for approximately $2500 each. Paul knew then that he would do everything he could to ensure the remaining 150 acres were protected forever.

Paul and his brother Doug inherited the property when their parents died. Together with Paul’s son Kyle they formed a limited liability corporation and worked with the Land Conservancy to create a conservation easement that will forever protect their 150 acres and ensure that the land will not be fragmented into small shoreline lots.

“As I look at the framed arrowheads on my wall I pray that the river will still flow, free and undammed and wild, for another 300 generations. I feel good that we have done our part,” says Paul.

See Land Conservancy of West Michigan
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