Plans to turn the Huyser House into a Living Legacy Center in Laketown Township took another step forward after the Land Conservancy of West Michigan approved the plan for the property at 4188 64th St.
The Land Conservancy holds a perpetual easement on the property to keep the area in a natural, scenic and agricultural state to protect natural habitats of fish, wildlife, plants and the ecosystems that support them. Any changes to the land must follow the terms of the easement.
“I’m delighted to see that the Land Conservancy of West Michigan approved and accepted our restoration plan for the Huyser House,” said Building Authority Chairperson Tom Shuff. “This satisfies one more obligation so that we can begin to restore the Huyser House to the living legacy that we are creating.”
Living Legacy Center
The Laketown Township Building Authority unanimously approved the 34-page plan last month that would restore the house to tell the story of Laketown’s past of agriculture on smaller farms, highlight architecture from the post-Depression era, offer a place to display historical artifacts, provide a place for a community garden, and open up volunteer opportunities.
The Living History Center would serve other functions, such as a parks/history office as well as a staging or classroom area for nature tours in the park.
The report estimates the cost of the project between $100,000 to $125,000, including work on the roof, septic system, well, electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and asbestos removal.
The house would not be brought up to standards to be a modern residence but would be modified to be usable.
The approval from the Land Conservancy is key.
“The ball just moved forward,” township Manager Al Meshkin in an email to the township board. “Next, I will continue to explore the financial side. I’d like to get some of the work rolling yet this year.”
Chris Long, conservation easement stewardship specialist with the Land Conservancy, announced the formal approval of the plan in an email dated Sept. 13.
“We have concluded that the listed potential uses all support either permitted public recreation or agricultural uses,” Long wrote. “Use of the home as a Parks & Recreation Office is also permitted as long as the office is used primarily to support public recreation.”
Long thanked the township for a chance to review the plan.
“We are pleased to partner with Laketown Township to protect this wonderful property and its conservation values in perpetuity,” he wrote.
A legacy center on a property with a conservation easement is unique for the land trust, said Marie Orttenburger, advancement manager for the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.
“Of the 124 easements we hold, the Huyser House project is the only one that has a legacy center,” she said.
About the house
The 1939 home of Manuel and Lilah Huyser, both of whom have passed away, was donated to the township along with 102 acres of land for a park in 2001. The house was unused for more than 20 years. The parks commission decided on March 15 to hand over the home’s fate to the building authority and told the group to have a plan for the building within six months. If the deadline was not met, the house would have been recommended for demolition.
The plan was submitted to the township board on Sept. 6 for information. The board took no action.
For more on the Huyser House, visit www.Laketowntwp.org.