Calumet Roots

Shirley Heinze Land Trust protects nature and educates

2012-12-02T00:00:00Z Shirley Heinze Land Trust protects nature and educatesArchibald McKinlay Times Columnist
December 02, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Women’s liberation! It’s wonderful, that is, if you happen to be married to a beautiful and brainy Southern belle with a college education, a highly successful career as an executive, and an annual income that would choke an ATM.

That roughly describes my situation. In my naiveté, I assumed that by this stage of the game, I would be the home-run hitter of do-good community groups. As it turns out, I am a spectator.

So many groups in the Calumet Region have their hooks into my wife that I now consider myself to be the spouse of a ball of metal with sharp edges.

Perhaps the one I can understand best is the Shirley Heinze Land Trust that, since 1981, has been protecting nature in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties. To date, more than 1,200 acres in these parts have been saved in their natural state by Shirley Heinze. Much of the land has been acquired through private donations and partnerships with public and private groups.

Another thrust of Shirley Heinze involves classrooms, libraries and laboratories. These landscapes contain hundreds of unusual plants that are rarely seen together, comprising a superb setting for education and study.

Bird life and mammals are especially abundant. Some sites provide habitats for rare insects, amphibians, and reptiles. None of these include the city halls of the Calumet Region.

At the moment, major sites for the work of Shirley Heinze Land Trust are:

  • Seidner Dune and Swale Nature Preserve, located mainly in Hessville.
  • Ambler Flatwoods Nature Preserve, in LaPorte County, is the land trust’s largest and richest property. It is the largest protected example of one of Indiana’s rarest natural communities - flatwoods typical of woodlands at more-northern latitudes.
  • Lerner Wetlands and Woods in LaPorte County. This is a 9-acre complex containing wetlands and wooded uplands that feature a spectacular springtime display of large-flowered trilliums and other wild flowers.
  • Walnut Woods, a forest of 80-year-old trees located south of Valparaiso, this wooded upland is notable for its stand of black walnut trees.
  • John Merle Coulter Nature Preserve in Gary. Two non-contiguous parcels encompassing a number of ecosystems.
  • Cressmoor Prairie Nature Preserve, in Hobart, 38 acres of the largest black-soil prairie preserve in the state of Indiana.
  • Beverly Shores, in Porter County, 250 wetland lots comprising about 25 acres are located within the Great Marsh.
  • Miller, in Gary, with 20 acres, including dunes, ravines, interdunal ponds and other wetlands.
  • Ivanhoe South, in Gary. The land trust owns more than 10 acres of rare dune and swale.

Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

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