Muncie nature conservancy’s founder to retire this spring
MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — When Barry Banks was in his late 20s, he was in his third year of law school at Pepperdine University, inching his way to that coveted finish line.
But amid the stressful work, he became ill. So he quit school to tend to his health.
Years later, Banks has announced he’s departing a different gig, but not for health or stress-related reasons. In fact, quite the opposite. At 69 years old, The Red-tail Land Conservancy’s founder and executive director said it feels like the right time to retire from his post. His retirement will be effective March 1, following 19 years of dedication to the organization.
“I could’ve retired a while back, quite a few years ago,” Banks said. “I love this job. I am one of the luckiest guys in the world because I have the wherewithal, doing something that I just know in my heart is the best thing I could be doing for my community, for nature … and for the planet.”
A lot has happened since that first meeting at Minnetrista in March of 1999. Banks has overseen the protection of 2,701 acres of natural areas and farmland in six East Central Indiana counties: Delaware, Henry, Randolph, Wayne, Tipton and Madison. The conservancy just announced in November that it will hold an official opening in the spring for Dutro-Ernst Woods, a 31-acre preserve of restored wildlife habitat along West Kilgore Avenue in Muncie. Fall Creek Woods, a 40-acre mature forest in Henry County, opened in October.
And to show Banks never stops, even when retirement is on the horizon, he and his group just secured 29 acres of land on the northwest side of Muncie, which they’re going to call Reber Woods. That’s the conservancy’s 15th nature preserve.
“Barry’s vision and extreme perseverance to find and protect quality land throughout East Central Indiana is remarkable,” Mike Galliher, board chairman of Red-tail Land Conservancy, said in a release. “He has done so much with so few resources to put Red-tail in the wonderful position it is today.”
Banks attributes the “core of our success” to a well-written mission statement, that “Red-tail Land Conservancy preserves, protects and restores natural areas and farmland in east central Indiana while increasing awareness of our natural heritage.”
Projects at Red-tail are funded entirely by private contributions from individuals, businesses and foundations, according to the conservancy’s website. “Without those people, we wouldn’t have survived and thrived. Period,” Banks said.
Banks’ role in cultivating those relationships was significant.
Among those he’d like to thank: George and Frances Ball Foundation, The Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County, Ball Brothers Foundation, Ed and Virginia Ball Foundation, The Community Foundations of Henry and Madison counties, DeFur Voran, Whitinger and Company, First Merchants Bank, Spence Restoration Nursery, FlatLand Resources, Ontario Systems, Muncie Power Products, Boyce Systems, Steve Anderson (First Merchants Bank), Charles Mortensen (chair of Natural Resources and Environmental Management Department at Ball State), Richard Brock (Whitinger), Bryan Gordy and Mike Galliher.
Banks said his fellow staff members will manage the organization once he leaves, and that a job posting for his position will be up soon.
The conservancy will hold a celebration for Banks in the spring. More information on that event will be available later this month.