Beginning in the 1980’s, this land was the playground for the local Montessori Schools. Every day, no matter the weather, kids would race from their classrooms into these woods. They played in the creek, they sat on its bank eating lunch, telling stories, dipping their toes in the cool clear water, wading on the sandy bottom, balancing on fallen logs. They built teepees – one by boys and one by girls – which still remain. They played games and searched for treasures, found morel mushrooms, jack in the pulpits, garter snakes and animal tracks. They had fights and disagreements; they formed alliances and made peace, learned to negotiate and resolve conflicts. They made lifelong friendships.
One of those kids, a young girl named Hilary, played here every school day for over ten years. She loved the creek and the woods and being there with her friends. At that time the Leelanau Trail was not developed and so, to her, the land seemed a huge wilderness to explore. The friends she played with in these woods remained her very best friends – as she grew up, went to college, moved to New York City where she explored an urban environment. Her first “adult” vacation was with her Montessori days friends. One day in 2013, in her Brooklyn apartment, she died unexpectedly at age 25 from an undiagnosed medical condition.
Hilary’s family acquired this nine acre parcel in 2016, put it into a not-for-profit organization named Leo Creek Preserve. It is protected forever from development – both by the Leo Creek Preserve nonprofit and also by a conservation easement held by the Leelanau Conservancy. It is open to the public.
Leo Creek is beloved by many students and teachers who explored its woods. Some of their formative experiences and happy memories can be read below