Posted by: Bridgett Hernandez

  • 03/04/2021

Visitor amenity improvements, trail retirements coming in 2021

As ACRES plans for the future, we understand that our work—protecting local land— continues long after our lifetimes. This means we must continually inspire support in our mission to protect and care for land.

When ACRES leadership realized that the preserve visitor experience varied greatly from property to property, we raised our standards for visitor amenities. Today we’re making progress on a four-year plan to improve our signage, parking, trail maintenance and online maps.

The four-year plan includes updating signage at ACRES preserves.

“We want visitors to access and navigate these natural areas with ease,” said Jason Kissel, executive director for ACRES Land Trust.

“Prominent signage and well-maintained gravel parking lots will let visitors know they have arrived at an ACRES property. Improved trail maintenance will allow you to enjoy the preserve experience without having to wonder if you’re on the mapped trail.”

Visitor amenity updates are underway at Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve, where a new gravel parking lot has been installed on Chapman Road in Huntertown.

Last year, we shared the difficult decision to retire trail systems at about 20 properties that don’t meet our new standards. Trail retirements consider proximity to other trail systems, size, flooding and other challenges, as well as low visitation.

Although the number of trail systems will decrease, the quality of the visitor experience will increase, inspiring new support for protecting local land.

“The purpose of our trail systems is to connect people to our mission,” said Kissel. We don’t want to miss opportunities to engage visitors. We want you to have a high-quality experience, gain an understanding of the work we do and learn how you can support the protection of natural areas.”

Visitor amenity improvements

The first phase of visitor amenity improvements will be complete this spring. Visitors to the following properties can expect improved parking, better maintained trails and new signage that strengthens our brand, states preserve rules and encourages visitors to join ACRES:

Lloyd W. Bender Memorial Forest


Fogwell Forest

Edna W. Spurgeon Woodland Reserve

Bibler Nature Preserve

Acres Along the Wabash

Trail retirements

Trail systems at the following properties will retire Dec. 31, 2021:

Stark Nature Preserve

Richard G. and Mary H. Culp Nature Preserve

Art Hammer Wetlands

Detering Nature Preserve

Little Wabash River Nature Preserve

Cypress Meadow

Anna Brand Hammer Reserve

Munro Nature Preserve

Madison Township School.

Although daily public access to these properties will end, ACRES will continue to dedicate the same level of stewardship to these areas.

“Maintaining visitor amenities like trails and parking lots is a very small part of what we do. Protecting land involves keeping the property intact as well as natural resource management – how we maintain or enhance the health of our forests and wetlands. This includes invasive species removal and habitat restoration. That work will continue on every property, regardless of whether it’s open or closed to the public,” Kissel said.

Learn more

For a complete list of retiring trails and public access updates for ACRES nature preserves, visit acreslandtrust.org/raisingourstandards.

  • Tags:


Barron Renkenberger - March 6, 2021 - 4:59 am

To begin ,thanks for offering acess to great hiking experiences around our area. Thoughts ; Noble trails literally starts at Dettering. Anywho I get it maintenance is expensive. I use Dettering 20 times a year. The closing of a preserve may or may not be the original intent of the donation. What does closing entail. I can only speak for Dettering because it is close by but it should be a good place to study closing a preseve in a urban environment. Usually when acres make a statement it is short on details . Anyway just some thoughts ,no reply needed. Keep doing your awesome work.

Bridgett Hernandez - March 11, 2021 - 9:43 am

Hi Barron, thanks for your words of support and great questions! ACRES takes donor intent very seriously. We reviewed acquisition records and correspondence with the donor of Detering Nature Preserve to ensure we are not violating her wishes. Her reason for donating the land to ACRES was to ensure its permanent protection and we can attest that this level of protection continues. Closing entails removing the parking lot; blocking the trailhead and changing the sign to indicate it is a closed preserve. We reserve the right to host "pop-up" events or members-only outings so there may still be limited access from time to time. The decision to retire this trail system was not made lightly. ACRES members help protect and care for over 100 properties, and each one is a special place. However, the core of our mission is protecting and restoring land. This drives everything we do, including the decision to retire trail systems and focus our resources on improving visitor amenities at open preserves. If you'd like to learn more about this initiative, visit https://acreslandtrust.org/raisingourstandards/ Thank you! -Bridgett Hernandez, Communications Manager