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Martha Curtis Donates Nature Preserve

December 6, 2010 | Little Traverse Conservancy | Harbor Springs, MI
Martha Curtis Donates Nature Preserve

Photo courtesy of Little Traverse Conservancy


Contact: Anne Fleming
Communications and Publications Coordinator
Little Traverse Conservancy
(231) 347-0991 |

Petoskey Gem Donated to Little Traverse Conservancy


HARBOR SPRINGS, MI -- A beautiful property on the outskirts of Petoskey was recently donated to the Little Traverse Conservancy so that it could remain a natural sanctuary for animals for all time.

Martha “Marty” Alice Curtis was described as a private woman who had a strong connection to all living things and the earth. Born in Petoskey, Martha developed a love of farming growing up on her family’s hobby farm. Her formal training was in nursing and she worked as a surgical nurse in both Petoskey and California. But her passion was animals.

One of Martha’s closest friends, Lois Holmes, described Martha as generous, non-boastful, and someone who lived the simple life by choice. “I called her ‘the St. Francis of Petoskey’ because she believed every creature was entitled to life, including insects and spiders,” Lois said. “She always felt that when she was with nature, she was close to God.”

Late in high school, Martha owned and registered a small herd of Galloway cattle and used her own money to raise oats and hay for them. At one time, she started a business raising puppies to be trained as guide dogs for the blind.

In her will, Martha donated 25 acres of mixed forest and field, including beautiful views of Little Traverse Bay. The property has been identified as a “priority area” for the protection of water quality in the Little Traverse Bay Watershed Plan.

As part of her gift, Martha included money to remove the home and associated development and for ongoing stewardship of the property. She requested that hunting would not be allowed and that no trails or parking area be developed. Her desire was that the land be returned to its natural state so that local animals could find refuge there. “It was as if the wild animals knew that they were safe on that land,” Lois said.

“And every year, the monarchs seemed to find refuge in Marty’s woods and converged in the fields because of the milkweed. You could count on it every year.”

The new preserve will be known as the Martha A. Curtis Nature Preserve. Lying adjacent to the Bay View Woods, the property greatly increases both watershed and wildlife protection in an otherwise developing region. “Natural lands like this — sitting amidst neighborhoods — serve a multitude of purposes for both wildlife and humans,” said LTC Executive Director Tom Bailey.

“This preserve is a significant addition to land conservation in the area. Together with the Bay View Woods, it provides significant wildlife habitat and protects water quality by maintaining the natural hydrology of a large area with steep slopes that drain into Little Traverse Bay.  It is a wonderful gift to the community and to conservation.”

Since 1972, the Little Traverse Conservancy has been working as the oldest regional, non-profit land trust in Michigan. With the support of more than 4,100 members, the Little Traverse Conservancy works with private landowners and units of local government to permanently protect ecologically significant and scenic lands from development. Since it was founded, more than 40,000 acres and 105 miles of shoreline along our region’s lakes, rivers, and streams have been set aside to remain in their natural state within Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Mackinac, and Chippewa counties. In addition, more than 6,000 young people participate in a Conservancy environmental education outing every year. For more information about the Little Traverse Conservancy and land protection options for your land, please contact their office at 231.347.0991 or visit


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