ACRES member Q&A with Alex Harkins
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Auburn, and I now call Fort Wayne home. I first learned about ACRES when I was a teenager, some 20 years ago. Some friends took me to Vandolah, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever! I grabbed a Quarterly out of the sign-in box on my way out, and my interest in ACRES grew from there.
What made you want to support ACRES as a member?
There are two main reasons I support ACRES as a member. First, I use ACRES a lot, especially this last year! Membership is a ridiculously small price to pay for the dozens of times I go to ACRES properties in a year.
My second reason is Cedar Creek. In my opinion, Cedar Canyon is the most unique geological feature in Allen County. I am an avid kayaker and have kayaked through it several times. When you are floating on the creek and look up, stately old trees form a cathedral above you. It is simply beautiful. Sadly, I think Cedar Canyon may be the most vulnerable natural area in the county as well.
As (the Cedar Creek Corridor) becomes more and more developed, I think the task of protecting the canyon becomes more important. ACRES is the predominant force in preserving the Cedar Creek Corridor, so supporting that is a no-brainer for me.Alex Harkins, ACRES member
Tell us about your New Year’s resolution.
I set out to hike all the open ACRES preserves. This is actually the second time I have hiked all of them in a calendar year. The first time was in 2013. Indiana is a place that kind of hides her natural beauty, so my motivation then was to find as much of that beauty as I could locally. My motivation the second time was to reconnect with that.
Coming out of 2020, I knew I needed to clear my mind and regroup myself. Like a lot of Midwesterners, I can sometimes suffer from a bit of cabin fever and seasonal depression in winter. For 2021, I adopted the Scandinavian saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” and got to hiking!
How long did it take you?
This year, it took me 62 calendar days, with 17 or 18 days of hiking. I grouped preserves into geographic clusters and would go hike several in a day. Also, I made info sheets so I would know how many miles I would have to drive and hike for certain clusters. That helped a lot with time management, as the setting sun was usually the limiting factor for me time wise.
Do any of your visits stick out in your mind?
Seeing how the preserves have changed over the last eight years was amazing. At preserves I visit frequently like Bicentennial Woods and Hanging Rock, it can be harder for me to notice change. However, I had not been to Robb Hidden Canyon in nearly a decade. The last time I was there, the front section was barely more than a field, now it has trees! Seeing nature reclaim the land is a beautiful thing!
Do you have a favorite ACRES preserve?
Vandolah will always be my number one because I have made so many great memories there. Also, I’ve always been struck by the dichotomy that it enshrines, between natural areas and human progress. As you walk the first part of the preserve you very quickly come upon the interstate and its gigantic, noisy footprint. For some, this may not be a feature that they look for at a nature preserve, but for me I have always looked at it as a teachable symbol for why we need nature preserves. We must protect some of this land before progress in one form or another changes it forever.
Anything else you want to share?
A lot of people think that Indiana, especially this part of it, can be dull, boring and devoid of geological beauty. ACRES preserves prove otherwise, and I am so grateful for that.
Will you help protect the places you love by joining ACRES as a member with a donation of $20 or more? If you love ACRES trails, membership is a great way to give back and it comes with perks like invitations to members-only events!