By LETTIE HAVER
Outreach, ACRES Land Trust
FORT WAYNE — The land is protected. Species are inventoried; footbridges installed. Eager explorers are standing by.
Spring Lake Woods and Bog, a 107-acre northwest Allen County nature preserve protected by Acres Land Trust, is about to open — nearly fifty years after being identified as a significant natural area by preservation experts. Acres will host a grand opening at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13, on the property located at 12905 Lake Everett Drive, Fort Wayne.
“Spring Lake Woods and Bog has been on our radar for a very long time,” said John Bacone, director of Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves. “We maintain inventories of natural communities of statewide significance — areas we’d like to see preserved by the state or our partners. We were very pleased to help Acres acquire this property for permanent protection.”
In “Natural Areas in Indiana and Their Preservation”, published by Purdue University in 1969, authors Alton Lindsay, Damain Schmelz and Stanley Nichols describe significant natural areas throughout Indiana. The authors created the book as a “guide for those who can save some of it.” To date, Acres Land Trust has protected 10 of the properties identified in the book.
Spring Lake Woods and Bog has long been recognized as significant to preservationists due to its sphagnum bog, orchids, pitcher plants and according to Lindsay, “herb flora distinctive of northern muckland woods…including cinnamon ferns five feet tall as it stands, the most profuse and tallest of this species we have seen.”
The preserve protects shoreline of Lake Everett, Allen County’s only natural lake. It is also home to the rare four-toed salamander, and features distinctive plant life including cypress-knee sedge, skunk cabbage and giant cinnamon ferns.
“I can vouch that giant ferns are lush there, giving it somewhat of a tropical feel,” said Lee Casebere, long-time friend of the organization. Casebere and one of Acres’ founding members, Bob Weber, explored the site in the 1970’s. “I’m delighted that this special place is now protected.”
From hikers to nature photographers to project supporters and more, many are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to explore the preserve since Acres began protecting it in March, 2014.
“We receive frequent inquiries about when this preserve will open,” said Jason Kissel, executive director of Acres Land Trust. “Thanks to our members, the IDNR, Bicentennial Nature Trust, Indiana Heritage Trust and more than 130 private donors, we were able to acquire and protect this land and create a new recreational opportunity in northwest Allen County. People who want to explore natural areas appreciate them; people who appreciate natural areas support preservation — Acres connects people and land.”
Following the celebration on Sept. 13, the trail through Spring Lake Woods and Bog will be open from sunrise to sunset for exploration, field trips and adventure at no cost, thanks to member support.
Community groups are encouraged to use this and other Acres preserves as venues for recreation, education and more.