You may have heard me tell the story of one of the very first exchanges I had with a high school friend when I returned to my hometown to accept this position at the Conservancy. It went something like this:
Friend: “So you’ve moved back here from Ann Arbor! Why?”
Me: “We love it here, and our family and friends are here, too. I found a great job and I am eager to get started. I’ll be working for the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy.”
Friend: “Oh! That is great. I love the outdoors. We go up north all the time!”
That may seem harmless enough, but when the Saginaw Bay Watershed covers 5.5 million acres, has over 7,000 miles of rivers and streams, and is one of the most diverse watersheds in the Midwest, I was puzzled. If you love the outdoors, then why wouldn’t your first instinct be to talk about the assets we have here at home? Ever since then, I have set out to explore and document the special landscapes here and change hearts and minds about the freshwater “everglades” of the Saginaw Bay.
It did not take long to find inspiration. Shortly thereafter, we partnered with Michigan Audubon to develop the Saginaw Bay Birding Trail. That project was meant to highlight the impressive habitats of the watershed through the eyes of birders and nature photographers. In developing the Trail, Trevor and I got to know the blank spaces on the map in a way that many people never have in this part of the world.
Last night, Moira and I took advantage of a short window of opportunity. Our son, Leo, is visiting his grandparents for the first time in 2020. We decided to grab a little cooler and watch the sun go down over the Bay at Port Crescent State Park, in Huron County. I wish I could say it was an original idea, but the previous day Trevor and his fiancee Erica made the same trip. I had never done that before, and as a photographer, it did not disappoint!
It isn’t hard to look beyond our own backyards for inspiration, but sometimes it is a challenge to appreciate the everyday beauty that surrounds us. We may be home to bustling cities, huge farmland expanses, and the lifeline between Metro Detroit and the “up north” my friend was speaking of, but we are too beautiful to bypass on the way to the crowded shores of Lake Michigan. We have some of the most diverse wildlife in the Great Lakes Basin, high-quality trails, and views over the water for days. I am proud to be from the Saginaw Bay Watershed.
So, I want to challenge you to find a spot on the map and just go there. Find a patch just a few miles from home that you have never set foot upon, and explore it. Start with the nature preserves of the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy, or the parks of Saginaw County.
You may be surprised. Our home may look ordinary on the surface, but scratch a little bit deeper and you will find yourself on an uncrowded beach, taking the sunset photo you have always wanted in your portfolio!
With hope for our community and an open heart,