Posted by: Bridgett Hernandez

  • 10/03/2018

ACRES awarded Breakthrough Grant from Foellinger Foundation to study potential for nature development

At ACRES Land Trust, we’re working on a new idea—a breakthrough idea, as deemed by the Foellinger Foundation of Fort Wayne, Indiana. We envision a 300-500-acre natural area development to accommodate multiple uses by Allen County nonprofits—a shared cultural area surrounded by nonprofit offices and facilities, giving each nonprofit group on the perimeter access to nature-rich commons in the middle. Thanks to the $39,050 Breakthrough Grant from the organization, ACRES can take the next steps in accomplishing this idea.

This shared nature development idea came to ACRES through frequent requests by nonprofits seeking our help or partnership in acquiring and/or maintaining land or creating mixed use trails. Many nonprofit services benefit from easy access to large natural areas, yet the capital and ongoing expenses of owning and maintaining land and trails are prohibitive. A dedicated nature development would allow organizations to share common land, freeing each organization to concentrate on their mission and strengths rather than acquiring and managing land.

From youth development groups and animal rehabilitation organizations, to equine therapy services, a variety of wellness organizations, various running groups, wilderness groups, educational organizations, homeschool groups and retreat leaders and so on, this model offers benefits to many individuals in our community by giving the nonprofits that serve them access to land. We suspect this model, based on for-profit development models with shared central resources like golf-courses or mixed use retail surrounded by housing, will work well as a non-profit tool for community enrichment and service.

We also envision a shared meeting space and equipment that would be made available to all tenants—spaces such as a board room, community room, kitchen and community office with equipment like a large-format printer and document shredder. Of course, because we are ACRES and believe in the power of nature in learning and growth, the property would also include multi-use trails, a community garden and outdoor class space – amenities that ACRES cannot offer on existing nature preserves.

This natural area concept aligns closely with ACRES’ mission to protect natural areas and encourage an appreciation for those spaces. We value a growing awareness of people’s place within and responsibility to the natural world—the intrinsic and diverse benefits of natural places the life they sustain. We facilitate individuals’, families’ and communities’ compelling desire to preserve our local land. And we believe in supporting other nonprofit organizations in our region with this innovative facility.

We are unaware of a comparable example to this vision anywhere else in the country, making this particular multi-use natural property the first of its kind. And yet, despite it being the first, we hear the call for such a development regularly. Thank you to the Foellinger Foundation for helping us take the next steps required to answer that call.

The Foellinger Foundation Breakthrough Fund is a $500,000 initiative “to support people-focused ideas that create a significant impact on the residents of Allen County.” With the $39,050 Breakthrough Grant, we will be able to enter the “refine” phase of the idea: exploring, researching and developing this nature development concept further. This type of research-and-development funding is tough for nonprofits to acquire, making ACRES especially grateful to the Foellinger Foundation for their grant.

Stay tuned for updates as we progress along the journey of developing this idea!


Jill Harman - October 3, 2018 - 6:21 pm

Thank you for making this type of commitment to future possibilities!

Lettie Haver - October 4, 2018 - 3:01 pm

Thank you for participating, Jill! ACRES gives people a way to step forward and take action for natural places. With committed response from many, the possibilities for the future are ... wild!