The ACRES land management crew has been quieter these last weeks of summer. Our team of ever-laughing, occasionally-singing interns disbanded, cheerfully returning to classrooms across the state, having gained experience they’ll not soon forget. They dutifully fought non-native, invasive plants, tended trails, built their plant identification skills and expanded their understanding of the field of land management.

“Honestly, the days we sprayed autumn olive, multiflora rose, and honeysuckle were my favorite,” says Grace St. Clair, of Topeka, who studies Environmental Science at Grace College and Seminary.

“We could walk faster, and I felt like we were accomplishing more since these plants were usually a pretty decent size. However, after learning to ID these invasives, I see them everywhere when I’m out on a run, walking trails, or just driving down the road. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but when I see them I always have an itch to spray them.”

One of the crew’s most challenging days happened to be one intern’s first day: “Prior to this I had not really understood that ACRES interns make their own trail,” says Dessiree Hurst of Fort Wayne, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Geo-science with a minor in Biology at Purdue University Fort Wayne. “I learned to side sweep and step. Stinging nettle that reached eye level covered 90% of the preserve. I went home with sore shoulders and a drive to give it another try the next day.”

“My hardcore parkour skills were tested multiple times as we had to deal with fallen trees. However, the group kept up good spirits with songs and laughter, and this attitude never wavered throughout the internship. Even on the worst day, I left with a smile.”

In addition to field work, ACRES summer interns participated in some incredible land management workshops and outings, including a plant inventory on ACRES’ recently acquired Grass Lake property in LaGrange County, a unique marl flat. The crew also joined a Stewardship Gathering of land management teams from the tristate area, helped with a creek study and pitched in for an end-of-summer barn party celebrating ACRES members.

Phoebe Habeck of Carmel, Indiana, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Forestry at Purdue University, says, “I think one of my most favorite things from the internship was getting to work with Purdue Fort Wayne and the University of Saint Francis to do a portion of the creek study at Little Cedar. Being able to experience what some field work is like was amazing, and I found it was something I really enjoyed,” says Phoebe Habeck, a Purdue University Forestry student.

Nolan Sipe of Fort Wayne, pursuing Environmental Studies and Biology major at Manchester University, says, “The stewardship gathering allowed me to make connection with other organizations, see what it is they do and compare it to what I did over the summer.

Taking a day to do a plant surveys on one property, hiking and clearing trails on properties, and helping out with some fish studies another: the first gave me a look inside ACRES and the latter examples have given me a greater appreciation for nature and the work it takes to help maintain these areas.”

Given the challenges: heat, chemicals, thorns, bugs and poisonous plants, most ACRES land management interns cheerfully leave these jobs to return to school. Cheers to this crew for sharing their infectious playful, supportive, and determined attitudes regardless of external conditions. We had fun working, and singing, with you and appreciate your joyful service to the land. Happy trails and best wishes!

Fall is approaching: will you wander an ACRES trail near you to catch a glimpse of forever? Explore more than seventy miles of trails on seven thousand acres, take photographs, enjoy family time, get outdoors, plan a field trip, get fit, reflect on nature’s beauty or share an adventure, for free from dawn to dusk, on forever-protected land:

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