written by: Kelley V Phillips, Outreach Coordinator
HAGERSTOWN, IN, September 24, 2020 – With the unveiling of new trailhead signs on Wednesday, Red-tail Land Conservancy officially renamed Hagerstown Nature Preserve to Steve Swoveland Nature Preserve to honor the memory of the conservationist who rescued the land from destruction.
After an exhausting decade-long campaign led by Steve, a Hagerstown native, the 46-acre wetland was permanently protected by Red-tail Land Conservancy from drainage and development in 2001. Following his death in late 2019, Red-tail’s Board of Directors unanimously voted this summer to rename the wetland he worked to restore and protect.
Steve was born, raised and eventually spent his adult life on the street bordering the wetlands which eventually became Hagerstown Nature Preserve in the early ’00s. As the first to graduate from Indiana University East with a biology degree, his career ultimately led him to a position as Co-Superintendent of New Castle Water Pollution Control. It was a role where he could clean and protect water while sharing the importance of wetlands and aquifers as natural counterparts to manmade systems.
While conservation and preservation of the wetlands were of utmost importance to him, he knew that a personal connection to nature inspires long-term stewardship. He worked with children, encouraging them to pay attention to their surroundings. Steve kept a trail mowed through the preserve to make it easy for people to visit and enjoy.
Jenny Elshtain, Steve’s wife of 30 years, said, “Steve was usually a withdrawn and private person, but when he took people for walks in the wetlands he was so in-the-moment that even his discomfort in talking in front of others would fade away. It gave him great joy to be able to share this special place with others.”
“These wetlands and all the creatures that call it home exist because Steve fought to protect the land he loved,” said Julie Borgmann, Red-tail’s Executive Director. “I hope people who visit the Steve Swoveland Nature Preserve will be inspired to follow his legacy of loving, learning, and actively preserving our natural lands.”
Like all of Red-tail’s 10 public nature preserves, the Steve Swoveland Nature Preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk. It has a one-mile trail which loops through a forest and passes by the thousands of trees planted by Steve since the land’s protection from development.
“If Steve were here today,” said Jenny, “I do not think he would hesitate to say that saving this place was his greatest accomplishment in life.”
Photo: Jenny Elshtain & Julie Borgmann stand by the new trailhead sign