From the Star Press: “New nature preserve expected to open in fall”

The following text is from an article by Seth Slabaugh for The Star Press here in Muncie announcing the development of our newest property: Dutro-Ernst Woods. For the complete article online and for more information about Seth, follow this link.

“Trail construction is under way at the city’s newest nature preserve — 31 acres that had been up for sale as a commercial- or industrial-development site.

The cost of the philanthropically-driven project is approaching $1 million, including land acquisition, earth moving, trail construction, habitat restoration, parking, natural play area, signage and removal of invasive species.

“This is for the community,” said Micayla Jones, stewardship director for Red-tail Land Conservancy. “You can be immersed in nature – plants, wildlife, insects – and open your senses up without having to drive very far.”

The property is across the road from Elm Ridge Funeral Home & Memorial Park along busy, four-lane Ind. 32 on Muncie’s west side, just east of the abandoned, massive Borg Warner transmission factory.

But when you’re in the nature preserve, named Dutro-Ernst Woods, you will be surrounded by prairie and woods.

“You really do feel like you are in the middle of nowhere – in the best way possible,” Jones said.  “You are in the middle of town but also completely immersed in nature.”

A 12-acre native prairie will be installed on the east side of the property, while the rest of the preserve is set aside for scrubland, shrubland and woodland.

Some people who have driven by the property have wondered if it is becoming an off-road motorcylce racetrack, because some gentle mounds are being created for better viewing of the prairie, birds, butterflies, etc., said Barry Banks, director of Red-tail.

No motorized vehicles or even bicycles will be allowed in the nature preserve, whose mile-long trail in the shape of figure eights will be accessible to visitors with disabilities.

Red-tail says the property will beautify a gateway to Muncie; preserve open space; provide a venue for educational programming, outdoor recreation and bird watching; improve quality of life; create wildlife habitat; and give children a play area called the Fox Council Circle.

The play area will include sticks and stones and other natural things kids can play with and make a hut out of.

The project was made possible by funding/support from Muncie native and Burris Laboratory alumna Josie Fox and her husband, Geoff, of San Jose; Augusto and Karen Da Silva (she is also a Burris alumna) of Connecticut; and a $112,000 appropriation from the Bicentennial Nature Trust funded by the Lilly Endowment and the state.

Karen Da Silva, formerly Karen Ernst, grew up on the property, where her parents owned and operated a greenhouse and nursery.

Geoff Fox gave the world the Fox head logo and launched one of the most ubiquitous brands of apparel and gear in motocross history, according to the American Motorcycle Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted inn 2009.

Ruth Dutro taught biology and environmental science, including field trips, at Burris and at Ball State University from 1942 until 1972. One of many students who admired and respected Dutro was Josie Fox.

The property is already home to some oak trees that Banks says are at least 150 years old. Other trees on the property include grownup nursery stock: maple, oak and hickory trees, some of which you can still see in rows.

The community can show its appreciation for the new nature preserve by donating time or money to sustain it, Jones said. A dedication and opening ceremony is expected sometime this fall.

Volunteers will be needed for trail maintenance, trash removal, tree planting, invasive-plant removal, and to keep an eye on the property. Financial contributions may be made to the Red-tail Land Conservancy’s stewardship endowment fund, at www.fortheland.org, or at P.O. Box 8, Muncie, 47308, or at (765) 288-2587.

Contact Seth Slabaugh at (765) 213-5834.”

 

Julie Borgmann

Julie Borgmann

Education and Development Director
Julie Borgmann is the Education and Development Director for Red-tail Land Conservancy. Her passion is connecting people to nature for conservation and wellbeing.