ACRES Land Trust expands, adds to nearly 100 acres to Wabash County protected lands
By Andrew Maciejewski for the Wabash Plain Dealer | Indiana Economic Digest
ACRES Land Trust acquired nearly 100 acres of land just north of Salamonie River, bringing their total protected land to almost 500 acres in Wabash County.
This is their sixth preserve in Wabash County, with five of those six properties having been preserved this decade. It will add to a collection of protected land surrounding Salamonie Lake.
“We never sell property that we own. In a mere hundred years, it’s going to be a spectacular old growth forest. In 200 years it’s going to be like the redwoods of the Midwest,” ACRES Land Trust Executive Director Jason Kissel said.
The land is just north of Salamonie Lake and right next to land owned by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As the protected land around Salamonie River and Lake continues to grow, Kissel said the benefits grow as well.
“Anytime you can grow habitat its great,” he said. “If you had 100 acres isolated by itself, it provides some habitat. But when you pair it with [protected land nearby], all of the sudden you get this big corridor of natural areas that really allow there to be habitat some of those species that need big areas: the river otters, the bald eagles.”
There are other environmental benefits as well. As ACRES allows the old farmland to grow back into forests, the plants will create a buffer zone for plants and soils to soak up runoff pollution before it reaches the surface water.
“It obviously helps with air quality too, just scrubbing the air,” Kissel said. “So all of the things we were taught in kindergarten that trees and soils can. Alone, it’s not too big of an impact, but in combination with thousands of acres around it, it all adds up.”
The land acquisitions will also help provide the public with privately funded recreation. Wabash County does not have a county park system, so ACRES is providing a service that other larger counties have to pay for, Kissel said.
“It’s a cool way for the non-profit world to provide a free public service that a lot of counties will spend tax money on to acquire the natural areas, put in trails, put in parking areas,” he said.
Some of their most famous lands were protected after people from the Wabash community reached out to ACRES for help.
The Girl Scout camp, Kokiwanee, was protected after the Girl Scouts had to close the camp. Instead of selling it to an outside business, they contacted ACRES, which bought the area and protected it, allowing those who enjoyed its waterfalls and trails to return whenever they’d like.
Kissel wants to get more feedback from Wabash residents, so he plans to hold more meetings to see what land citizens want to see protected.
There are a lot of unique features in the area, he said.
“Wabash is really rich in public lands and geological features. That’s what’s amazing. Sometimes when we live here, we just to take them for granted,” Kissel said.
Wabash River formed by a large flood event, he said. The big hill between Huntington and Wabash is a moraine, a deposit of rocks and sediment, left by the glaciers during the ice age.
“Hanging rock and some of these Silurian Reefs that we have right here in the county are in geological textbooks around the world because it’s rare examples of that time period being exposed that you can walk right up to it,” Kissel said.
The newest acquired property is closed to the public until the previous owner passes away. ACRES acquires some of its land by making agreements with owners in which ACRES buys the land but allows the owner to live out their lives on the property.
Once the owner passes away, the property may be open to the public. About half of ACRES properties are open to the public, and the other half are closed either due to similar agreements or to help provide shelter for animals.
“The relationship was built for the past ten years,” Kissel said. “He’s always wanted to preserve his land. He’s kind of taken his property and really enhanced his habitat. It’s a property he always wanted to see ACRES acquire, we just didn’t have funding for it.”
The land was originally purchased by NIPSCO to help lessen the company’s impact on the environment from their Greentown Reynolds Transmission Line project, which is a 60 mile electricity line being built between Greentown and Reynolds, Ind. The company then donated the property to ACRES to maintain and oversee once the current property owner passes away.