Beloved Cary Property Protected Forever
Hastings residents have long loved the Cary property and used it as their own for many years, particularly as a public access to Sweezey's Pond. Robert and Mary Cary always shared it with others. And now they have made it their permanent legacy by taking steps to protect their beautiful property forever through the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC).
"This is one of the most signifigant properties SWMLC has protected because it's a place of the heart, a place everyone knows about and cares about," said Peter D. Ter Louw, SWMLC's executive director. "Ecologically, it's a real jewel, an extremely rare specimen of a mesic forest. It's one of the most beautiful properties we've protected."
Robert and Mary Cary bought the front part of the property (located in the city) in 1953. Three or four years later, they bought the back piece (located in the township), the property now protected by SWMLC. Although a dentist for many years, Robert Cary loved farming the property. The Carys had cattle and planted hay and pine trees. "It was a good place for kids to grow up," said Mary Cary. "We used it for family picnics. Our kids camped and rode their horses there. And the neighborhood kids would come back and swing on the vines."
Preventing the property from being developed became increasingly important to the Carys as the years went by. "We liked the property the way it was and didn't want to see it developed," she continued. 'People from town have used it for recreation and the high school cross country team used it. We always wanted people to enjoy it like we did."
" When I first came to Barry County 19 years ago, people took me to a few of the best natural areas they thought I should see," siad Jason Cherry, Hastings resident and long-time volunteer and naturalist for SWMLC. " The Cary Property was one of those places. The property in very unique with very striking relief. There are a lot of ravinesand it opens up into a very broad, ancient 'halls' with huge oillars of trees. There's a healthy American chestnut tree, and no one know how it got there."
This very special natural area is protected forever with a conservation easement that will remain with the property deed. Although the property remains privateand privately owned, restricing the land with a conservation easement will not preclude Mrs. Cary from opening the land to the public for passive recreation. All 134 acres of the township portion of the property will continue to be made available to teh public due to her unflagging generosity. The parcel that remains within the city limit is not covered by the conservation easement.
Negotiations to protect the property started long before Dr. Cary passed away in early 2007. " Dr. and Mrs. Cary were very delightful people to work with," Jason said. " They had been talking with SWMLCfor many years about protecting the property. And they've always shared it with others. They've been very generous in sharing their land."
The Hastings community will long remember and appreciate Robert and Mary Cary for their foresight and generosity in sharing their property. But preserving the conservation values of this property through a conservation easement will have long- lasting ramifications for the health of the greater community. It will help protect the water that flows into the Thornapple River, it will continue to provide homes for birds, frogs, and other wildlife, and it will give residents and visitors a scenic view of Cook Road that can never be taken away. Dr. Carey and Mrs. Carey took the steps necessary to leave a lasting legacy to their community.
- Pamela W. Larson