Author Archives: riverraisin

The West Austin Road Bur Oak

by Sybil Kolon

The West Austin Road Bur Oak once grew majestically about four miles west of Manchester. My association with it began in 1984, when the Washtenaw County Road Commission planned to cut it down because it was only three feet from the edge of the road. This in spite of there being no evidence that it had been involved in an accident. A group formed and was able to save the tree.

Early one morning in March of 2010 a sleepy driver hit it head on, the car caught fire, the occupant and the tree survived. In late May 2011, after it was leafing out nicely, the WCRC had the tree cut down, with the knowledge of the property owner, Camp Dianava.

This time we were not able to save the tree, but we were able to save several slices of the trunk. One of them was dried in the kiln at Hardwoods of Michigan in Clinton. A section of it was sanded to a smooth finish and taken to the dendrochronology lab at Michigan State University, where the rings were counted with a high-powered microscope.

It can now be stated with certainty that this bur oak sprouted before our country was founded. The exact year is unknown, but we do know it was about six feet tall in 1749. Each decade is marked by a dot along a line drawn from the center (1749) to the outer most ring (2010), 26 inches, with labels every 50 years. With its thick bark it was 4.5 feet in diameter.

Though it no longer lives, it does have a story to tell. We need to read its rings. It sprouted very close to what would become Austin Road, about 1740, on the line between Sections 6 and 7 of Manchester Township, which was surveyed in 1824. It was then about 11” in diameter. The interpretation of the rings is still ongoing.

There are very noticeable variations of ring growth over time. It would be interesting to research the weather and land use over time to see what relationships to tree growth could be made. That is what dendrochronologists do. Dr. Sophan Chin, who counted the rings, recognized the variation of the growth rings and suggested that when the tree was growing well, the local people were probably also doing well.

The felling of this tree was not welcomed by many, but having these rounds provides us with a unique opportunity to help people make connections to our history and to the natural world.

The following groups have also supported this project, and will each have their own round.
Manchester Area Historical Society, Hidden Lake Gardens, Walker Tavern Historical Site, Camp Dianava, Raisin Expectations.

Words of Others – Aldo Leopold

Each technology has its own yardsticks, usually yields or profits. But only commercial land uses have any profit, and some of the most important land uses have only spiritual or aesthetic yields. The collective criterion must be something deeper and more important than either profit or yield.

   Among the ordinary yardsticks, I can think of but one which is obviously a common denominator of success in all technologies: soil fertility. . . .

What else? What in the evolutionary history of this flowering earth, is most closely associated with stability? The answer, to my mind, is clear: diversity of fauna and flora.

It seems improbable that science can ever analyze stability and write an exact formula for it. The best we can do, at least at present, is to recognize and cultivate the general conditions which seem to be conducive to it. Stability and diversity are associated. Both are the end-result of evolution to date. To what extent are they interdependent? Can we retain stability in used land without retaining diversity also?


from Leopold’s review of A.E. Parkins and J.R. Whitaker, Our Natural Resources and Their Conservation, Bird-Lore, 1937 (excerpted from Aldo Leopold – His Life and Work, by Curt Meine).

Land Conservation and Stewardship

by Sybil Kolon

Ten years ago the RVLT coordinated with several partners to form the Raisin Cluster, under the umbrella of the Stewardship Network. The Stewardship Network now has several other “clusters”, and continues to provide support that helps each cluster evolve in their own communities. Each cluster is a network of people and groups who are working to bring land stewardship activities to a wider landscape and audience.

Our partnership with the Raisin Cluster began because several board members have property we want to steward. Land stewardship is being done at some of the conservation easements that RVLT holds, but there is always room for more stewardship. Whether it is part of a conservation easement or not, we encourage landowners and citizens to take part in restoring native habitats on private and public lands.

Letter from the President

by Woody Kellum

2012 marked the Raisin Valley Land Trust’s twentieth anniversary. At our ten year anniversary, we had 358 acres under conservation easements, and now we have a little over 600 acres. This steady growth is not spectacular, but it shows the ongoing commitment of our small group of volunteers. Twenty years is a significant history, but a mere blip in the eternity we intend to protect the land for. Why do we as a land trust make this commitment? Certainly it’s because we care about preserving the landscape around us – for the small farms, the wildlife and native ecosystems, and limiting urban sprawl – all the issues many of us care about. But it’s also about helping individual land owners to preserve the land they know and love; these are land owners for whom their land is more than a financial resource.


Many of our fourteen easements involve personal relationships between RVLT board members and the land owner. Even though RVLT could do nothing but simply enforce the legal easement contracts, we have found it very important, as well as satisfying, to maintain these personal relationships as much as possible. As time goes on, our continued success in protecting land will depend as much on open communication with our land owners as enforcing easement contracts. Forever is a long time. In the legal sense, it’s only as long as our legal system lasts. In a personal sense, it is as long as we live. In the foreseeable future of our human culture, protecting land forever will depend on the respect we all give to the land, and to those who are responsible for it – the land owners.