One of the largest unprotected parcels in the vicinity of Torch Lake could be forever preserved with a conservation easement.

At 385 acres, the Kiessel Ridge Farm on the lake’s east side is certainly significant due to its sheer size alone. But it also contains prime agricultural soils and critical viewsheds of both Torch Lake and Grand Traverse Bay, all of which combine to make it a top priority for land protection.

Unlike many farms in the area that are dedicated to a variety of fruit operations, Kiessel’s well-drained, sandy soils (classified as prime, unique or locally important by the Natural Resource Conservation Service) support a rotationally grazed, sustainable cattle operation. It is also in the early stages of growing rye for local distillery products that are rapidly increasing in popularity and prestige.

The purchase of a conservation easement on this property will support the generational transfer of farmland by making the land more affordable. It will also protect this property from the possibility of development, which could be of substantial scope and density considering Central Lake Township’s lack of zoning. Any form of development could have a negative impact on Torch Lake water quality, as studies have shown that increased occurrences of driveways, rooftops, roadways and other impervious surfaces result in increased surface runoff.  With much of the lake frontage already developed, properties like these that provide exquisite views are the next best thing for developers and will likely be lost if left unprotected.

GTRLC has been working with the family since 2017 and has applied for funding from the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for half of the fair market value of the easement. The family has agreed to a 25 percent bargain sale.

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