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VALPARAISO | The spring flowers welcomed visitors along the trails at the Meadowbrook Conservation Center and Preserve during Sunday afternoon’s open house, as the Shirley Heinze Land Trust welcomed guests as well.

The Shirley Heinze Land Trust became owner and steward of the 74-acre property that once served as camp to thousands of Girl Scouts before closing in October 2011.

Sarah Pavlovic, a former Girl Scout troop leader, said she is happy to see her beloved camp continue serving the community.

“I helped to lead day camps here and so when I heard that Shirley Heinze was going to get this property, I was thrilled. There are so many good memories that girls have here, and I know that those memories will continue through preservation and education,” Pavlovic said. She was among hundreds who came out to Sunday to celebrate the new endeavor.

* Myrna Newgent, a Life Board Member of the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, says the acquisition of the camp means the group can fulfill both operational needs, as well as its mission.

“We needed office space badly. We were renting space in Michigan City through Save the Dunes and it was essentially one room. When the Girl Scouts approached us and wanted the land preserved and were willing to work with us, it was perfect.

"We will use the house at the front of the property for offices and the building back here for functions," Newgent said. "And there is ample natural space meeting our mission.”

Part of that mission is preservation and conservation. Peg Mohar, member of Friends of Shirley Heinze, says she has already been planting bluebells on the property to help diversify the habitat.

“Ideally, we would like to restore the prairie here and even restore the woodland areas,” Mohar said, speaking to a group of visitors in front of a plan for a 1,000-square-foot garden of native plants such as purple coneflower, milkweed, culver’s root and lupine.

The other part of Shirley Heinze’s mission is to educate and steward the land. Paul Quinlan, director of stewardship for the organization, says the property fits well with these goals.

“Our education programs reach about 1,700 kids each year through the Hobart, Portage and Discovery Charter schools," Quinlan said. "We will be able to continue those programs here, and our trails are always open to the public.

"We also will work to recover the moraine forest habitat on the property and mitigate for the emerald ash borer, which has affected many of the trees here,” he said.

* Editor's Note: This story is a corrected from an earlier version.

A story that appeared Monday misspelled the name of Myrna Newgent, a Life Board Member of the Shirley Heinze Land Trust. The Times regrets the error.