An open house took place Feb. 21 to inform the public about the future of the Turtle Woods property in Troy.

An open house took place Feb. 21 to inform the public about the future of the Turtle Woods property in Troy.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Troy school board pledges higher financial match for Turtle Woods preservation plans

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published March 5, 2024


TROY — The Troy School District Board of Education voted unanimously Feb. 27 to adjust its match amount for the Turtle Woods property in order to improve its chances at receiving a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund so the land can be turned into a protected wildlife area.

The 70-acre site is located on Square Lake Road, between John R Road and Dequindre Road. The land is owned by the Six Rivers Land Conservancy on a land contract from the Troy School District. This ownership arrangement allows Six Rivers to negotiate a sale through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department.

Once the grant is obtained, the land can be purchased from the school district and the protected area can be established by the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department.

“It will be the first nature preserve operated by Oakland County parks,” said Melissa Prowse, the manager of planning and development for the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department. “We don’t operate any parks as nature preserves. Our goal is that this will be a place where you can come and quietly enjoy nature. You can view wildlife, you can walk on trails, you can meditate. It will be there for generations. We’re not going to build it out or use it for recreation like sports and playgrounds. There will be a parking lot, a restroom facility, and we’ll redo or formalize some trails and ensure no trails go through sensitive areas that could affect the ecosystem.”

The Troy School District purchased the property several decades ago with plans to build various facilities on it over the years having been proposed. Without a pressing need for new land for the school district, and considering the wetlands ecosystem that lives on the land, many residents began pushing for the land to be protected and preserved.

“This was a major property for the school district,” said Board of Education member Vital Anne. “It was never utilized, and there was a lot of support from the community to keep it as a natural preserve, especially because it’s in the middle of Oakland County and we don’t have many such things around.”

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund did not approve the grant to Six Rivers in 2023, but they will be reapplying this year. With the additional money provided by the school district, those pushing for the new protected area are confident they will receive the grant this year.

“We did apply last year, and there were a lot of applications for the grants. Ours barely missed the cutoff for funding,” said Prowse. “We are increasing our points in the (methodology) they use to score applicants. We’re coming back with a higher percentage of match funding. Last year we had 25% of match funding from the school district, and this year we have 50%.”

The district previously was matching $937,500. It will now be contributing $1,875,000. This means the trust would only have to award $2.6 million instead of the approximately $3,537,000 that was requested before.

An open house took place Feb. 21 to communicate with the public what the next steps are for the property.

“We’re holding the event today mostly as an update for the community,” said Prowse. “I think most people are aware that we were not awarded the trust fund grant last year, and a lot of people were disappointed about that. We do have a very strong plan moving forward, though, and we are giving it another run this year, and we are very excited about it. We want everyone who supported us in the run-up to our first application to know where we are at and for them to share their support again.”

The next application for the grant is due April 1.

Anne said that, given the value of the land, the school district would need to receive some compensation for it, hence the need for the grant.

“As a board, we have a responsibility to ensure the district keeps it for its students but also to try and find a financial gain, if possible,” said Anne. “We took the 6-acre parcel along the road for development that wasn’t wetlands. That was sold. The rest we wanted to give it in perpetuity to a group that would maintain it. Now there is this grant that will help (the district) offset some of the cost, so we get money for the value of this very valuable property. … It was a 25% match; now it is 50%, because we are willing to go lower in order to get this grant so the land can be maintained.”

Chris Bunch, the executive director of the Six Rivers Land Conservancy, said that those who want the land protected should push for the grant and ask their elected officials to support it.

“Pay attention and stay involved. We want people to stay tuned to this issue if it’s something they want for their community,” he said. “I would suggest they communicate to (Troy) City Council, because they can be a strong supporter of projects like this. They should contact their state representatives, too. They can contact the trust fund on behalf of this project. Letters to Oakland County (Parks and Recreation Department) also can be included in our application if they are received before April.”

Any such letters can be sent to Prowse at

“We want people to know we are still working on it. We didn’t forget about it because we didn’t get the grant last year,” said Prowse. “If we are successful, we won’t acquire it until the end of 2025 and it won’t open to the public until probably 2026.”