Dolan Natural Area

127 Acres of Undeveloped Forest and Meadow Land

The Dolan Natural Area is managed and owned by West Michigan Trout Unlimited, and is intended to be maintained in its natural setting for the enjoyment of all. Hiking and cross country skiing is encouraged, along with fishing the Coldwater River during the trout season.

During the summer of 2005, the board of SWMTU approved the hiring of a consultant to create a Forest Stewardship Plan for the Dolan Property. In addition to recommendations, this work includes a detailed inventory of the existing soils, vegetation and wetlands.

Where is Dolan Natural Area?
The Dolan Natural Area is located in southeastern Kent County south of 100th Avenue on Baker Road. Two large wooden signs on the east side of Baker Road and north of the Coldwater River identify the property.

The property is comprised of a variety of hardwoods, pine trees, wetlands and beautiful meadow lands. The south boundary of our property follows the Coldwater River for approximately 3/4 of river mile. Tyler Creek enters the Coldwater on the eastern side of the property.

Grand Valley State University conducted an inventory of flora species on the property in the mid-1980′s. An amazing stand of Virginia Bluebells was found to exist and the Michigan Natural Association, in cooperation with WMTU, established a trail which marks their springtime location.

It is very common to see deer, rabbits, grouse and other game species. However, one may only hunt with a camera.

Two small ponds, which contain some bluegills and small bass, exist on the property. They are close to Baker Road near the north sign. The ponds are open to fishing during the appropriate seasons.

Hiking trails exist in the Dolan Natural Area that loosely follow the property’s border and bisect the meadow lands. A well-marked foot path follows the north bank of the Coldwater River and provides ready access to the stream for fishermen. The trails are also good for cross-country skiing during the winter months. Please … no hunting, no fires, no camping, and no snowmobiles or off-road vehicles.

How WMTU Aquired the Property
Beginning in 1983, West Michigan Trout Unlimited began acquiring title to 127 acres of undeveloped forest and meadow land along the norht bank of the Coldwater River in southeastern Kent County. At the time of the first land transfer to WMTU, such a a project, i.e. the private management of natural resources in the public interest, was quite new for conservation groups.

Prominent Grand Rapids physician, Dr. James Maher, who had long been interested in conservation and the environment, wanted to protect his family’s parcel of river property from streamside development. The Maher family had managed their property with the intent of preserving its undeveloped state and had attempted to further enhance its value to wildlife by planting stands of pine trees and autumn olive shrubs.

However in the late 1970′s and early 80′s, with his children growing up and the demands of his practice increasing, Dr. Maher began to consider other parties to manage the property. As both the Coldwater River and Tyler Creek either bordered or cut through the property, and both were designated trout streams, he thought of West Michigan Trout Unlimited. It appeared a natural fit.

A formal proposal was submitted in November 1982 that called for dividing the property into six parcels of approximately 20 acres each and transferring one parcel to WMTU each year for the next six years. The deeds required preservation of the property as a “natural area” and restricted its usage to the study and enjoyment of the flora, fauna, fish and reiver ecology. Additionally, WMTU agreed not to operate the area as a private hunting or fishing preserve, but to maintain the property for public use.

The Dolan Family Name
Transfer of the final parcel of property to WMTU occurred in 1982. Unfortunately, due to Dr. Maher’s untimely death in 1989, he was not able to witness the last conveyance of property to WMTU. However, according to longtime friend and former WMTU President, Jon Bachelder, Dr. Maher “expressed considerable satisfaction with TU’s stewardship of the property and asked that it be named the Dolan Natural Area, in honor of his mother’s family.”

WMTU Conservation Efforts
The WMTU chapter has been active in enhancing and maintaining the property as time and funding raised from our annual banquet and volunteer labor permits. In 1985 we put in the small foot bridges to help the hiker in crossing the small ravines and spring-fed feeder creeks. And in 1987, the chapter raised money at their annual banquet to designate funding for the bank improvement on the Coldwater. Our chapter members and volunteers brought in rocks and gravel to aid in bank erosion stabilization just west of Tyler Creek. Today, in keeping with the environment, and a “natural setting,” this is one of the most picturesque areas of the property.

Anyone who is interested in joining or simply would like some additional information about the West Michigan Trout Unlimited chapter or the National Trout Unlimited organization can call WMTU at 616-752-8596 or email WMTU.

The Fishing
The Coldwater River and Tyler Creek produce some excellent mayfly hatches throughout the course of the trout season. The Coldwater generally produces good fishing through the Brown Drake hatch. Both streams have excellent fishing during Hendrickson time.

Students from the Lakewood Junior High School conducted stream samplings on the Coldwater River and Tyler Creek. Generally, the students found the streams to be in excellent condition with potential for fish holding structures. Past surveys by DNR fisheries biologists have confirmed that the water quality and temperatures are suitable for both Brown and Rainbow trout.

As testament to the Coldwater River’s diverse mayfly and stonefly populations, good fish holding capacity, and its cooler temperatures, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in the late 1980′s attempted to introduce Red Band trout into the Coldwater. Although the experiment did not succeed, it does confirm the high regard in which fish biologists hold the Coldwater.

Nothing is easy for a trout stream in today’s modern society. Erosion, agricultural and road run-off (non-point source pollution) and urban sprawl are three problems that confront our watersheds. The Coldwater River watershed is no different. It is often easy to point fingers at someone else and proclaim “the proposed development is wrong,” or “farmers shouldn’t till so close to the river,” but we must realize that we all contribute to the problem. Consequently, it is vital that we become involved in, and support, organizations such as Trout Unlimited in an attempt to create positive impact on our watersheds for future generations.