You probably know the fields of sunflowers that bloom every August on U.S. 31 North between Acme and Elk Rapids.
Every other year, hundreds of those flowers bloom in front of the farmhouse at Maple Bay Farm – 11 acres of protected land on the west side of the highway that the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy has owned since 2002.
This Friday, the Conservancy is opening up that land to future partners – and possibly new uses.
It’s launching a Request for Proposals (RFP) for partnership opportunities for the future development and/or management of programs, projects and/or the property, says Sarah Naperala, a Conservancy staffer and member of the Maple Bay Farm leadership committee. It is possible that the end result could be multiple organizations and individuals involved in the support of the Conservancy’s farmland protection program.
Along with the sunflowers and the house, there is also a sugar shack, pole barn and root cellar on the property. All of these structures will remain, says Naperala, and the “viewshed” will be protected – in other words, no new structures will be built as part of any future partnerships.
The goal is for the farm to be a “key community asset,” complementing the adjacent county-owned Grand Traverse Maple Bay Park and Natural Area. Note: That adjacent 400 acres offering passive recreation and access to East Bay is not part of the RFP.
Naperala says the committee has no “prescribed activities” in mind; it is simply looking for a partner – or several partners – and it’s ready to entertain any and all proposals. All proposals must, however, do this: either implement, or complement, the Conservancy’s programmatic and property goals and mission. There also can be no conflict of interest nor comprise the Conservancy’s nonprofit status.
Could farming happen there once again? It certainly could. What about the sunflowers? Time will tell.
The RFP project is happening at the same time the Conservancy is taking a close look at what kind of recreational opportunities people want along the U.S. 31 North corridor from the TC State Park in East Bay Township to north of Elk Rapids – home to nine parks and preserves. The Conservancy tells The Ticker that preliminary results from the Community Recreation Survey conducted with co-partner TART Trails will be available soon.
The RFP and related materials can be downloaded from the Conservancy website beginning Fri., July 20. Any questions should be directed to Naperala at 231-929-7911 or email@example.com.
Completed RFPs are due October 1; the Conservancy anticipates making decisions about its Maple Bay Farm partner(s) by late winter.