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Leaving it Beautiful

June 16, 2011 | Little Traverse Conservancy | Cheboygan, MI


Contact: Ty Ratliff
Little Traverse Conservancy

Nearly 200 Acres in Black River Watershed Protected through Conservancy


CHEBOYGAN, MI -- For much of her childhood, Marion Weberlein and her family would travel from their home in Plymouth to the Eastern Upper Peninsula to fish for pike. “At that time, those fish were our family’s meat. My mother would come prepared to can everything we caught,” Marion explains. Her father had been a master baker who had emigrated from Germany, and this was shortly after the Depression.   

Marion went on to study veterinary medicine at what is now Michigan State and established a successful business near her home town. But the family’s heart was always up north. Every year, they rented a cabin for their fishing excursions, eventually spending their trips in the northeastern Lower Peninsula. One day, they discovered the nearly 200-acre farm surrounding the cabin they liked to rent was for sale. “My dad just loved it,” Marion says, “but didn’t feel he could afford it.”

So Marion purchased the farm, enabling her parents to move north while she kept her business going downstate. Her folks loved the land and, with Marion’s help, gardened, canned, and built barns for her horses and other animals. Every year, flowers popped up around the homestead, planted by the prior owners who ran a cut flower business.            

Many years later, Marion sold her downstate practice and joined her parents on the land, with the intention of retiring as well as raising and showing Arabian horses.

One thing led to another and her passion for the welfare of animals was too strong and the need for her services was too great. She soon found herself back in business just outside of Cheboygan, and worked right up until she was 70. “Marion’s success as a vet was due to her strong spirit and the fact that she always put animals first,” said Mary Talaske, a close family friend. “When someone brought in an animal to put down because they didn’t have the money to pay for a broken leg, she would just say, ‘Oh, I can fix that.’ She never turned an animal or a person away if there was something she could do.”

It was in this spirit that several years ago Marion started thinking about the future of her farm. Throughout the years, she has had numerous offers to purchase the land, especially the 2,000 feet of river frontage. Similarly, she has always turned down requests from hunters wanting to use her land. “She really wants to pass this land on to her family, but with the assurance that it will not ever be subdivided,” says Ty Ratliff, land protection specialist with Little Traverse Conservancy. “The conservation easement was the perfect estate planning tool for her.”

This spring, Marion donated conservation easements to Little Traverse Conservancy to permanently protect a total of 191 acres of her farm. The river easement excludes the homestead and farm, protecting the surrounding 55 acres. A second easement protects a 136-acre forested tract located just down the road. “This place has always been natural and free for the animals to have refuge, and that is just how I want it to stay,” she said


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