Trails are open, restoration is in progress.
Red-tail has had a lot to celebrate this year, opening 3 nature preserves to the public in east central Indiana. White River Woods, Fall Creek Woods and most recently, Dutro-Ernst Woods. These lands are now permanently protected thanks to the Bicentennial Nature Trust, Indiana Heritage Trust, the local Land Conservation Fund at the Muncie, Delaware Community Foundation, and supporters like you.
The vision and much of the expense of our newest urban nature preserve was made possible through the generous support of Josie and Geoff Fox. Dedicated on November 13, 2017, Dutro-Ernst Woods is named to honor Josie’s inspiring biology teacher from Burris Laboratory School, Ruth Dutro. The preserve, located on the former site of the Ernst Nursery, also honors the Ernst family’s contributions to our community.
Most of our properties protect a large tract of hardwood forest, to preserve a critical wetland area, or a stretch of river habitat. Our conservation work protects habitat for Indiana wildlife, restores native species, and assures it will be around for future generations. We are seeing the return and growth of wildlife of concern like the bald eagle, river otter, wild turkey, and Indiana bat.
Located just east of downtown Muncie on Kilgore Avenue, Dutro-Ernst Woods is unlike anything Red-tail has done before. We started with a property slated for commercial development filled with many invasive and exotic plants. We removed them and will be restoring existing areas in the coming years with native grasses, wildflowers, and trees. It has taken a huge commitment of time and financial resources to get to this point.
The wildlife population we are hoping to protect and restore is one of special concern to all of us, definitely a threatened species, people in nature.
We are doing everything we can to support this population, starting locating Dutro-Ernst Woods within the city limits. There is over a mile of ADA accessible, crushed gravel trails with multiple turn around points. When the restoration is complete, people of all ages and abilities will be able to enjoy the trails as they wind through a short-grass prairie and woodlands.
Muncie’s first public, nature playground is just off the memorial plaza. Here kids can use their imaginations and test their limits by jumping from rock to rock, climbing on tree trunks, and building forts with loose parts.
The trails are now open. When the restoration is complete, the Dutro-Ernst Woods will be a diverse landscape of prairie, hardwood forest, and wet scrub shrub forest where people can experience the wonder of nature over and over. Interpretive signs will help people learn more about the wildlife and native plants that can be found in their own backyards.
Maintaining Dutro-Ernst Woods will take more time and resources than our other preserves. We hope the community will enjoy this natural area and help Red-tail sustain the preserve with volunteer efforts and financial support.