HUNTERTOWN — With the completion of a 500-acre acquisition phase on Cedar Creek, ACRES Land Trust is launching a website, booklet and video about its decades-long work protecting the creek corridor.
To date, the nonprofit permanently protects 1,000 acres in the 20-mile conservation area, the largest forested corridor remaining in Allen County. Cedar Creek is one of five conservation areas designated by ACRES.
“It’s been three decades, and we’re just getting started,” said Jason Kissel, executive director of ACRES, Indiana’s oldest and largest local land trust.
“ACRES will keep adding to the Cedar Creek Corridor and gathering support for more projects like this. By showing what’s possible in one place over many decades, ACRES will inspire participation, expanding our regional conservation areas,” Kissel said.
To mark its current success on Cedar Creek and spark added support and appreciation for the place, the land trust commissioned local author Ryan Schnurr to write, “Cedar Creek Corridor: Changes in the Land,” an essay on protecting the creek. Schnurr’s essay is available for purchase as a printed booklet or may be viewed at no charge at cedarcreek.acreslandtrust.org. ACRES will make the booklets available at its Huntertown office.
A companion video to the booklet, with interviews and creek footage, is available on ACRES’ new Cedar Creek site. Site visitors will discover the natural features of the creek, learn how it was formed, what wildlife call it home, read conservation updates and find preserve trail information, as well as reports of recently acquired places and the families who helped protect them.
ACRES began acquiring land in the Cedar Creek Corridor with an 11-acre parcel in 1984, continuing in phases and with individual properties. Over 29 years, the member-based organization pieced together the first 500 acres within the corridor. In the last five years, ACRES has acquired 503 acres in the corridor, worth more than $4.50 million.
“This is a good moment in ACRES history to take stock, celebrate and invite more people to join us,” Kissel said. “ACRES encourages the public to become familiar with the Cedar Creek Corridor, to visit this place often and let its permanent protection inspire you. ACRES members are protecting special places in the tristate area; with help, we can do more.”
Cedar Creek is one of only three rivers in the state to be designated in Indiana’s Natural, Scenic and Recreational River System under the 1973 Act of the same name. ACRES helped the waterway earn the designation in 1976.
The scenic designation extends 13.7 miles, from C.R. 68 in southern DeKalb County to the creek’s confluence with the St. Joseph River in Leo-Cedarville, regulating development in the floodway. ACRES works to expand this measure by protecting land within and beyond the floodway.
In addition to its individual properties and the Cedar Creek Corridor, ACRES Land Trust protects land within four conservation areas: along the Eel, Elkhart and Wabash rivers and in northern Steuben County.
To date, the nonprofit protects over 7,000 acres on more than 100 properties in the region. ACRES prioritizes adding protected land to existing preserves. It said conservation areas provide increased protection to natural places, ensuring connectivity for wildlife and plant life, establishing functional ecosystems.
Recent funding for Cedar Creek has been provided by Bicentennial Nature Trust, President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust Fund, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Cairn Foundation, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, M. E. Raker Foundation, Ropchan Foundation and Dr. Samuel D. Sledd, Martha B. & Mabel I. Sledd Foundation.
About the corridor
• The Cedar Creek Corridor is the largest forested corridor remaining in Allen County. Riparian (riverbank) and upland forests dominate the area, along with wetlands and gravel hill prairies.
• Vegetation in the corridor includes the yellow lady’s slipper orchid, gray beardtongue, tall meadow rue, golden alexanders and the only populations of Indian paintbrush and yellow puccoon documented in Allen County.
• Wildlife found in the corridor includes bobcats, turkey, mink, multiple freshwater fish species, river otters, pileated woodpeckers, bald eagles and great blue herons (including an active great blue heronry with over 75 nests), plus green herons and yellow-crowned night herons.
• Cedar Creek occupies a tunnel valley — a deep, gorge-like canyon cut by meltwater flowing under pressure beneath a glacier. The tunnel valley is trenched into the Huntertown aquifer system, the primary groundwater source within the corridor.
• Recreation in the corridor includes canoeing, kayaking, fishing and hiking along 10 miles of trails on closed loop systems within individual properties. As ACRES protects more land, linking trail systems will create a unique backcountry hiking experience, the organization said.
• The extension of Fort Wayne Trail’s Pufferbelly Trail will connect the corridor to downtown Fort Wayne, Auburn and, eventually, Angola. Partner organizations are evaluating the potential for canoe and kayak trails through the corridor.