The rustic trails of Fox Nature Preserve, located in Oakland Township, can be explored on foot, bicycle or horse.

The rustic trails of Fox Nature Preserve, located in Oakland Township, can be explored on foot, bicycle or horse.

Photo provided by Oakland Township

Fox Nature Preserve to be dedicated May 22

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 10, 2023


OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The public is invited to celebrate and explore the township’s newest 234-acre nature preserve later this month.

The Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Commission and the township’s Board of Trustees are hosting a grand opening dedication for the Fox Nature Preserve on Monday, May 22.

People of all ages are welcome to explore the rustic trails that wind through open fields and woodlands and to learn about the park’s natural and cultural heritage.

“For a long time, the parks and recreation commissioners have been aware of the environmental importance of that parcel, and actually, more than 25 years ago, they had tried to purchase the parcel, but at that time they had not applied for grants. They were more financially constrained and they didn’t have the competitive financial wherewithal to outbid the person who ended up getting the property,” said Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Director Mindy Milos-Dale. “But we’ve always been interested in this property. It’s got a lake on it. It’s got valuable different types of wetlands. It has a branch of the Stoney Creek that flows through it. It has beautiful wetlands, and it’s a wonderful combination of all different types of habitats.”

The township was eventually able to purchase the property — which officials said protects water resources, rare species and special habitats — thanks to a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant that covered 75% of the purchase price, along with funds from Oakland Township’s Land Preservation millage, with the assistance of Six Rivers Land Conservancy. The $3,081,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant covered the majority of the purchase price of the substantial parcel and was combined with just over $1 million in matching funds from the township’s land preservation millage.

Ben VanderWeide, the township’s natural areas stewardship manager, said the nature preserve protects ecological links to the existing Lost Lake Nature Park, Addison Oaks Park and the Bald Mountain State Recreation Area. It protects the west branch of Stony Creek and Clam Lake. It contains important wetlands, like bogs and fens, and includes fields with remnant native vegetation. VanderWeide noted the property includes some “really unique habitats” — including submergent marshes, southern shrub-carr, rich tamarack swamps, black spruce bogs, southern wet meadows, mature oak forests and prairie fen, to name a few.

Park-goers can explore the variety of natural habitats as they walk, bike or ride horseback along 2 miles of mowed trails.

“At the moment, just the north part of the trail property is open … but we have planned a nice little trail network that goes through open fields, by wetland and through woodland, so it’s really a nice walk for folks, and I think they will discover a bunch of new habitats and learn a lot,” Milos-Dale said.

The new property will eventually provide over 4 miles of internal trails — including connections to the Lost Lake Nature Center and Oakview Middle School in Lake Orion — and increased access to hiking, wildlife observation and nature programs.

Milos Dale said the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is “one of the best things that our state has going for it.”

“Every year, they give $20 million-$25 million to parks and recreation departments across the state to purchase nature-oriented properties for preservation or to help communities build outdoor recreation facilities for the parks. That paid for three quarters of the cost of this property, so it was quite substantial,” she said. “It was quite the process, but it all worked out.”

Merrie Carlock, a grant coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund began in 1976 to provide a source of funding for the acquisition and development of parkland and trails for resource protection and public outdoor recreation. Funds were originally derived from royalties from minerals on state-owned lands but are now solely from earnings from the program’s invested funds.

“Once you purchase land or develop land with trust fund dollars, it’s intended to stay in perpetuity forever for parks and recreation,” Carlock said.

Grant applications from Michigan communities and state projects are evaluated on established criteria, such as natural resource access and conservation, proximity to urban areas, local financial commitment and need, and priority projects of the Trust Fund Board, such as trails, regional significance, public access to lakes and rivers, wildlife habitat, and hunting access.

“I remember the township’s application, particularly because they had done a good job with describing the various types of plants and animals that exist there. Here in Oakland County, we are a highly developed county, and there are lots of subdivisions and commercial development, so the bits of nature that we have left are critical to our community,” Carlock said.

The grand opening ceremony for the Fox Nature Preserve will be held at 4 p.m. May 22 in the nature preserve’s parking area at 1627 W. Predmore Road in Oakland Township. Light refreshments will be served after the ribbon-cutting and recognition ceremony, which will include a history of the parcel and an overview of its ecological importance.

“It’s a new area that people can explore and get some outdoor recreation,” Milos-Dale added.

In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held at the Paint Creek Cider Mill, 4480 Orion Road.

Fox Nature Preserve is located at 1401 Lake George Road in Oakland Township, with parking at 1627 W. Predmore Road.

For more information, visit or call (248) 651-7810.