Cedar Creek corridor gains new ACRES preserve

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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 during an ACRES work day at Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve in Huntertown.

Staff reports

ACRES property holds a special place in the heart of many in northeast Indiana.

To honor her late husband, in December Joan Garman donated 84 acres of forest, wetlands and farm ground in the Cedar Creek corridor to ACRES Land Trust for preservation.

The Garman property is just north of Metea County Park, west of Leo-Cedarville and near several other ACRES preserves in the corridor.

Among them is the Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve, which saw about 10 volunteers clearing invasive vinca on a cold morning in late February.

Cedar Creek is one of only three rivers in the state to be designated as Indiana Scenic Rivers under the 1973 Natural, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Act. ACRES helped the waterway earn the designation in 1976.

ACRES and other land conservation partners have preserved 1,453 acres of the Cedar Creek corridor, the largest forested corridor in the region.

ACRES said Terry Garman always knew the 84 acres of vibrant woods, wetland and farmland his parents, Ray and Dorothy Garman, purchased in the Cedar Creek corridor in the 1940s and ’50s was special and worth preserving.

Through the years, he made careful farming and land decisions, aware that his property was a rarity bucking the development boom along the scenic corridor. He turned to conservation farming methods and advice to preserve nature and his parents’ legacy.

In 1995, Terry Garman retired as a physical education teacher from Highland Terrace Elementary School in New Haven, having served both Fort Wayne Community and East Allen County Schools for 33 years. He died in September 2013 at age 71 after coping with Parkinson’s disease for 18 years.

“The Dorothy and Ray Garman Nature Preserve provides examples of many of the natural systems and working lands that stretch through the Cedar Creek Corridor,” said Jason Kissel, executive director of the local, nonprofit land trust. “It’s our privilege, thanks to our members, to promise to protect this place forever.”

Based in Huntertown, ACRES maintains more than 6,000 acres of forests, wetlands, prairies, cropland, animals and native plants in northern Indiana as well as Michigan and Ohio.

With a commitment to protecting the ecosystem of the Cedar Creek corridor forever, ACRES preserves stretch from the new Garman Preserve acquisition northwest about nine miles to Barrett Oak Hill Nature Preserve, then past the Heinzerling Family Five Points Farm Nature Preserve in rural Garrett to the James P. Covell Nature Preserve south of Auburn.

The Dorothy and Ray Garman Nature Preserve is closed to the public at this time.

People can explore more than 70 miles of trails, take photographs, enjoy family time, get outdoors, plan a field trip, get fit, reflect on nature’s beauty or share an adventure for free from dawn to dusk at ACRES preserves.

There are also opportunities to help upkeep the preserves throughout the region on work days.

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, outreach team member Kelly 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.

Locations, upcoming work days and events can be found at acreslandtrust.org.