ACRES Land Trust recently completely acquisition of 193 acres of Cedar Creek land appraised at $3 million, leveraging a matching award from Indiana’s Bicentennial Nature Trust. With the latest acquisitions, ACRES now permanently protects over 1,000 acres of the largest natural feature extending through Allen and DeKalb Counties. In total, the local nonprofit recently reached 7,000 acres protected and managed.
ACRES acquired its newest land in the Cedar Creek corridor on four properties, primarily farmland adjacent to existing preserves. ACRES will continue to farm the land for a few years, using the income to protect and manage its holdings. The nonprofit will then restore the properties, planting native hardwood trees and shrubs, thus expanding the forested corridor.
Cedar Creek is one of only three rivers in Indiana designated under the Indiana Natural, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Act, a designation ACRES Land Trust helped the waterway earn in 1976. ACRES began acquiring Cedar Creek land for permanent protection in 1984. Today, the nonprofit protects 32 properties, including additions to 17 total preserves within the twenty-mile stretch of the creek from Auburn to its terminus into the St. Joseph River in Leo-Cedarville.
For the recent project, ACRES leveraged a unique $1 million matching award from Indiana’s Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT) for landscape-based conservation. BNT awarded only a handful of such awards beyond the fund’s typical matching support for land acquisition of up to $300,000. Larger-scale landscape-based conservation projects increase protection for land, plants and animals, including rare, threatened and endangered species.
Former Hoosier governor, Mitch Daniels created BNT in honor of the state’s 200th Anniversary in 2016, allocating $20 million, matched by $10 million in support from Lilly Endowment, Inc. The Trust paid homage to the state’s 1916 Centennial celebration that saw the creation of the State Park System. BNT supported more than 200 projects statewide, celebrating and protecting Hoosier’s love for the land.
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a bargain sale discount on one of the properties and an 84-acre Cedar Creek land donation by Joan Garman of Leo-Cedarville honoring her late husband’s family’s legacy provided a portion of the match. The Cairn Foundation, The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, ME Raker Foundation, and many individual donors invested additional funding to help ACRES protect this land.
About the Cedar Creek Corridor
The Cedar Creek Corridor’s unique topography features a tunnel valley—a sudden, surprisingly deep, gorge-like canyon cut by glacial meltwater into an otherwise relatively flat Indiana landscape. This area is so unusual it was considered for a state park site in the early 1900s.
In 1976, with help from ACRES Land Trust, Cedar Creek became one of only three rivers in the state designated under the Indiana Natural, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Act.
The corridor is home to vegetation unique in this area such as the yellow lady’s-slipper orchid, gray beardtongue, tall meadow rue, and Allen County’s only documented populations of painted cup (Indian paintbrush) and yellow puccoon.
Cedar Creek’s wildlife includes bobcats, mink and river otters, as well as Pileated Woodpeckers, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, and Yellow-crowned Night Herons.
Cedar Creek runs into the St. Joseph River, ultimately providing drinking water to the 264,000 residents of Fort Wayne and surrounding communities.
While phenomenal, the use of this BNT priority match funding merely ends an incredible phase for the land trust. With continued support, ACRES will continue acquiring and adding to protection of the corridor.