Shirley Heinze Land Trust held its Fall Partnership Luncheon on Friday, November 1st, 2019, at The Market in Valparaiso, with more than 100 guests in attendance. The annual event provides an opportunity to connect with the local community and spread awareness of the organization’s land conservation efforts and education and outreach programs in northwestern Indiana.
Board President Kelly Carmichael welcomed guests, thanked sponsors, and acknowledged the recent passing of environmentalist Lee Botts, a founding member of the organization’s Advisory Council, who was a tireless champion for the protection of Lake Michigan and the environment in Northwest Indiana.
Stewardship Director Eric Bird began with a description of the “Bringing Nature Home” program, which seeks to encourage home gardeners and landscapers to use environmentally sound practices in their gardens and plantings. These practices include using plants and trees that are native to this region, and avoiding the use of invasive plant species that can spread into neighboring natural habitats and choke out the plants and trees growing there. The Valparaiso Public Library was recognized for its Parking Lot Bioswale Project, a nearly four-thousand square foot area around the parking lot that was planted with native plants, shrubs, and trees that not only provide scenery, but help reduce the runoff of rainwater and melting snow from the parking lot.
Phyllis Newman is the Library’s Assistant Director. She is also a Master Gardener, and conducts maintenance oversight of the bioswale. In the application Phyllis states, “The Library is pleased to be a part of making downtown Valparaiso a green and welcoming place to all visitors, both human and animal. There have been many sighting of birds, butterflies (including a chrysalis), snakes, rabbits, and even a fox! We seek to be a bridge between the urban and natural world.” Partners in the design and installation of the project included the Troyer Group of Mishawaka, and Cardno Native Plant Nursery of Walkerton. More information about the Bringing Nature Home Program may be found at http://www.heinzetrust.org/bringingnaturehome.html.
Following the award, Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s Executive Director Kristopher Krouse provided an overview of the land conservation mission and work of Shirley Heinze Land Trust. He highlighted three sites: Lydick Bog Nature Preserve in St. Joseph County, Meadowbrook Nature Preserve and Conservation Center in Valparaiso, and preserves along the East Branch of the Little Calumet River. Significant progress has recently been made at all three locations, and planning is underway for additional public access and community engagement, as well as for a more comprehensive conservation vision and resiliency for the land the organization protects.
Krouse concluded the presentation by showing a brief video about the organization which was produced as part of a 2018 National Excellence Award from the Land Trust Alliance. To watch the video, please visit http://www.heinzetrust.org/video.html
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 2,500 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.