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Beal Plantation Update

GRAYLING – Thanks to the reader response we received from our story about the Beal Plantation we ran a few weeks ago, some “wheels” have started turning.  

As you may remember, William J. Beal, a Professor from the Michigan State Agricultural School, planted over 40 different species of trees and shrubs in 1888 on an experimental plot of ground in Grayling. The purpose was to determine the best trees and plants to use to restore the devastation resulting from the logging boom.

Over the last century the plot has been visited by numerous foresters and forestry students to monitor the success or failure of the various species originally introduced. The plantation is particularly significant since it is the oldest experimental site of its kind in the United States.  The site was last visited by academics in the 1990’s.  

beal plantation
Dried, sun-bleached boards and peeling signs mark the start of a trail badly in need of some help. Faded letters and broken support legs indicate this sign needs lots of work.

By 1999 the plantation had fallen under the management of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Several local businesses and individuals recognized the significance of the site and took steps to turn it into a tourist attraction administered by Hartwick Pines State Park. The turn of the century saw the plantation with a new parking lot, signage explaining the site, trails for visitors to walk on and bench’s upon which to rest and take in the sights and sounds that abound within the plantation.

Twenty years has taken its toll on the site. Trails are overgrown or blocked and signs have deteriorated to the point of being illegible. Thanks to the interest of readers of Up North Voice, Tom Barnes, DNR Forest Manager, Hillary Pine, DNR State Historian stationed at Hartwick Pines and hopefully a couple of other key agencies, plan on getting together within the next few weeks to review the site and prepare a report on what is required to once again make the Beal Plantation a great historical destination in the Grayling area.  

At least one local organization has already indicated an interest in providing financial support for the restoration effort. The plan is to figure out what needs to be done, develop a cost analysis, secure funding and, in the spring of 2020, have a plan, funds and volunteers ready to hit the dirt and return the Beal Plantation to a place of prominence in Michigan’s logging history.

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