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Fort Wayne area’s ACRES Land Trust adds unique property to its conservation holdings

This photo shows a stand of tamarack trees on the Grass Lake property ACRES Land Trust bought late last year southeast of LaGrange. Tamaracks grow in only a limited number of places in Indiana. (Courtesy of ACRES Land Trust)
Janel Rogers, left, an ACRES Land Trust board member, and Casey Jones, ACRES' director of land management, explore the Grass Lake property that ACRES purchased late last year southeasat of LaGrange. (Courtesy of ACRES Land Trust)
Milkweed, seen blooming here, is one of the many native plants that flower during the summer at the Grass Lake property ACRES Land Trust bought late last year southeast of LaGrange. (Courtesy of ACRES Land Trust)
A coneflower blooms in this photo taken at the Grass Lake property ACRES Land Trust bought late last year southeast of LaGrange. The property contains a range of native plants, including some on Indiana's endangered species watch list. (Courtesy of ACRES Land Trust)

One of ACRES Land Trust’s newer nature preserves saves an area that contains what may be the largest marl flat in Indiana and possibly is the most unusual property protected by the nonprofit land trust.

The 102-acre Grass Lake property, which is located about 8 miles southeast of LaGrange, includes a lake and a marl prairie, an ACRES news release said.

Marl is a mix of clay soil and lime that once was mined for use as fertilizer. The soil also contains sand and gravel, the news release said.

Mining once removed sand and gravel for making concrete and marl for use as fertilizer, the news release said. All mining stopped about 30 years ago, and the site has been relatively undisturbed since then.

The marl flat on the site was not mined, said Lettie Haver, ACRES’ outreach manager.

The site likely was named Grass Lake because of all of the sedges and rushes that surround the water, Casey Jones, ACRES’ director of land management, said via email. The marl flat contains smooth sawgrass, beaked spikerush and shrubby cinquefoil, Jones said via email. Portions of the property also include numerous pitcher plants, which eat insects and can live in acidic or alkaline soils.

During surveys, state ecologists have found “highly significant” species of plants, birds, insects, endangered spotted turtles and other creatures, the news release said.

Many of the native plants are on the state’s endangered watch list, but they seem to be thriving on the Grass Lake property, Jones said in the news release.

The property is closed to the public to protect it and because it is landlocked by private properties, Haver said. ACRES may hold occasional member events there, however, she said.

Ruth Wilson sold the Grass Lake site to ACRES at the end of last year so her family’s land and its unique habitat will be protected from future mining or development, Jason Kissel, ACRES’ executive director, said in the news release.

The $335,000 purchase included funding from ACRES and its private donors as well as money from the Bicentennial Nature Trust, The Conservation Fund, Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves and the state’s President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust Fund.

The ACRES funds came from a revolving fund the organization maintains for land purchases, Haver said. ACRES still needs to raise about $25,000 in donations to replenish the revolving fund, she said.

The land trust, which is based near Huntertown, currently protects about 7,047 acres of land in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan, the news release said. The protected land includes natural areas and farmland, managed forests and other property people want to protect from future development or destruction.

LEARN MORE

For more about ACRES Land Trust, go to acreslandtrust.org.

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