ACRES preserves acres and acres of beauty

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PHOTO BY MEGAN KNOWLES

ACRES Land Trust Outreach Manager Lettie Haver, left, and volunteer Tina Puitz fill trash bags with invasive vinca Saturday during an ACRES work day at Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve in Huntertown.

The ACRES Land Trust office in Huntertown has a view unlike any other.

“Here, when you come up a long drive and you’re driving in the woods, you get to the top of the hill and you’re overlooking an 80-foot ravine, a unique vista in northeast Indiana,” ACRES Land Trust Outreach Manager Lettie Haver said. “Suddenly, when you’re here you’re in it, you understand preservation in that way.”

This being ACRES’ home office was no accident. The office is in the home of two of the organization’s founders, Tom and Jane Dustin, nestled in a preserve bearing their name that connects to the nearby Robert C. and Rosella C. Johnson and Whitehurst nature preserves. These combine for more than 88 acres of diverse land along the Cedar Creek corridor, one of only three Indiana Scenic Rivers, a state designation.

Along with the Izaak Walton League, area Girl Scouts and Metea County Park, more than 1,500 acres along the river are protected, Haver said.

“People really want to roll up their sleeves and pitch in,” Haver said about the Dustin preserve and other ACRES properties, totaling more than 6,000 acres in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. “It’s just something inside them, they want to contribute and be a part of it.”

About 10 people had an opportunity to do just that during one of ACRES’ recent work days.

The crew was hand-pulling the invasive, non-native vinca, more commonly known as periwinkle.

“We’re clearing the area so we can get some species that are natural to the area to grow,” outreach team member Kelly Shepherd said.

The work days, which take place at different ACRES properties each month, have been growing, with more than 20 people attending some of the events, Shepherd said.

These work days are beneficial not only for the land ACRES owns but also for the people working, allowing them to “gain knowledge and be invested in the preserve so they know what it takes to keep them going,” she said.

Volunteers include ACRES members and other area residents interested in preserving the land.

But volunteers present this day knew they weren’t just toiling for satisfaction or the good of the land, but rather on behalf of people from all over the region who enjoy the trails and natural beauty of these outdoor spaces.

Volunteer Linda Miller was helping for the second time, and said she is eager to attend more work days.

“I think it’s important we preserve and protect our natural areas and ACRES is a great resource,” she said. “They work to protect land and provide it so that everybody can come out and enjoy it.”