Photo Caption: The Chikaming Open Lands will use their grant from the Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS® to help install educational signage and benches along trails in the newly opened Sawyer Preserve. Accepting the check from Debbie Floor, President of Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS® was Chris Thompson, Executive Director, Chikaming Open Lands. Also attending the ceremony at the Sawyer Preserve were George Lucas, Re/Max Harbor Country, Union Pier, sponsoring Realtor, Gary Walter, EVP, SWMAR, and Ryan Postema, Land Protection Specialist, Chikaming Open Lands

ST. JOSEPH, MI - The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors® has received a $1,500 Placemaking micro-grant from the National Association of Realtors® to help install educational signage and benches along trails in the newly opened Sawyer Preserve. The grant programs objective is to help Realtor® Associations partner with others to plan, organize, implement and maintain placemaking activities in their communities.

The Chikaming Open Lands newest nature preserve in Sawyer, MI is a perfect example of the potential of taking an unused space and by making minimum improvements create a vibrant community space that will add to public enjoyment for generations to come. The preserve is open for public use for passive recreation such as bird watching, hiking, or cross-county skiing on existing trails.


The grant funds will be used to purchase the materials for three preserve signs, frames/posts for the signs, ten QR code trail markers, and three benches. The design of the signage and the labor to install the signs, markers and benches will be completed by Chikaming Open Lands staff and stewardship volunteers. The project is expected to start this summer.

Ryan Postema, Land Protection Specialist, Chikaming Open Lands stated, We want to facilitate and enhance the recreational use of the nature preserve by the local community. People will be able to walk the trails and learn about the ecology and natural history of the property via interpretive signage and trail markers. Benches will offer a place to rest and take in the sights and sounds of nature within the beechmaple woodland.

Chris Thompson, Executive Director, Chikaming Open Lands explained, The Chikaming Open Lands newly acquired 23 acre preserve is contiguous to another 20 acre preserve owned by Michigan Nature Association. Our organizations will be partnering to manage the properties jointly. Additionally, local community members and groups such as the River Valley Garden Club and the Prairie Club supported the purchase of the property and will be further supporting stewardship of the property through volunteer workdays.

George Lucas, Re/Max Harbor Country, Union Pier, was the Realtor sponsor for the Chikaming Open Lands Sawyer Preserve grant. Lucas, as President of the Board of Directors of Chikaming Open Lands, is fully invested in the project. During the past 15 years, Chikaming Open Lands has protected 1573 acres

of land in Berrien County. As an organization, we are very interested in preserving open spaces and enhancing the accessibility and usefulness of the Sawyer Preserve and all of our preserves for the public.
Realtors® live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them, said Debbie Floor, President, Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors®, Inc. Placemaking can help foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities. It creates places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better. This grant will allow us to address areas in our communities that are in need of improvement or redevelopment and create a place where friends and neighbors can come together.

Placemaking grants are awarded to local and state Realtor® associations to help them and their members initiate placemaking projects in the community, like turning a parking lot into a farmer's market or a vacant lot into a playground. Realtor® associations and their Realtor® members are actively engaged in the community and know the neighborhoods and the properties that would benefit most from these improvement efforts. About The Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS®, Inc. is a professional trade association for real estate licensees and ancillary service providers for the real estate industry in Van Buren, Berrien and Cass counties. The Association is located at 3123 Lake Shore Drive St. Joseph, MI 49085, (269) 983.6375. They can also be contacted through their web site, www.swmar.com.

To find out more about National Association of Realtors® placemaking grants visit, realtoractioncenter.org/Placemaking.

Chikaming Open Lands is the local land conservancy dedicated to preserving the open spaces and natural rural character of southwest Berrien County. The organization goal is to protect and restore native plant and animal habitat in the area, improve water quality in our rivers, streams and in Lake Michigan, and permanently preserve ecologically significant forests, prairies and wetlands, as well as prime farmland and other open spaces in this community