Shirley Heinze Land Trust announces that it has acquired 34 acres of wetlands and floodplain along the Little Calumet River in Chesterton. The property consists of three disjunct parcels, situated immediately south of the intersection of I-94 on either side of State Road 49.
The acquisition will help connect the Heinze Trust’s 66-acre Keith Richard Walner Nature Preserve, located west of SR49, to a number of its other protected areas to the east, including the 87-acre Wykes-Plampin Nature Preserve, the 165-acre Dale B. Engquist Nature Preserve, as well as the 42-acre J. Timothy Ritchie Nature Preserve, located along Sand Creek, which flows into the Little Calumet River nearby.
“We’re connecting more pieces along the east branch of the Little Calumet River, moving closer to our vision of a protected river corridor,” says Sarah Barnes, Programs Manager for Shirley Heinze Land Trust. “The property will become an important part of the management of the wetlands and the river, including control of invasive species and reintroduction of native plants.”
Dan Plath, Chief of Resource Management for the Indiana Dunes National Park, and Founder of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, as well as a member of the Advisory Council for Shirley Heinze Land Trust, says the acquisition constitutes “almost a mile of the Little Calumet River at this location. Because of the rich wetland complex found here, it is a spectacular place for paddling, fishing, and birding.”
The property may be viewed by paddlers on the river. The nearby Keith Richard Walner and Wykes-Plampin Nature Preserves are open to the public for hiking and offer access to the river for paddling and fishing. Please visit http://www.heinzetrust.org/nature-preserves.html for more information on these preserves.
The property was purchased from the Diocese of Gary, with funding from the Laura Hare Charitable Trust, whose mission is to enhance Indiana’s natural environment through preservation and stewardship of ecologically significant natural areas and the promotion of environmental education, stewardship and awareness initiatives.
A portion of the acquisition runs along the private grounds of the Catholic Community of St. Patrick in Chesterton. Father Jon Plavcan, Pastor of St. Patrick Church says, “It is wonderful that we were able to offer the wetlands around Saint Patrick Catholic Community to Shirley Heinze Land Trust for its present and future protection. The educational possibilities for our students in learning more about wetlands and how to care for nature is a gift to all of us.” Richard Rupcich, Principal at St. Patrick School adds, "I am very excited about the possibilities for our students. Our campus, with its expanse of wetlands, native plants, various forms of wildlife, as well as access to the Calumet River, lends itself to a great backdrop for environmental science.”
The property is the most recent acquisition within the Little Calumet Conservation Corridor, which was approved in 2014 as an Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust Conservation Area. Since then, Shirley Heinze and its partners have worked to help connect already protected natural areas along the river. In total, more than 2,350 acres have been protected along the East Branch of the Little Calumet River by several conservation organizations, agencies, and municipalities.
Since 1981, Shirley Heinze Land Trust has protected, restored and maintained northwestern Indiana’s rich and significant natural communities, including tallgrass prairie, high dune, oak savanna, boreal flatwoods, dune-and-swale, woodlands, marshes, swamps, ponds, fens, bogs, and riparian habitat. More than 2,400 acres in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and St. Joseph Counties have been preserved for the public’s benefit. Shirley Heinze nature preserves feature significant scenic and ecological value, and most are open to the public for hiking and enjoying nature. Six of its properties have been dedicated to the people of Indiana as state nature preserves. The organization also works to educate people of all ages to appreciate the importance of land conservation, and to experience the natural wonders of this unique region. Its work is accomplished through a partnership of volunteers, donors, and professionals.
For more information on the work and nature preserves of Shirley Heinze Land Trust, visit www.heinzetrust.org, call (219) 242-8558, or access its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/heinzetrust.