Board of Directors
ACRES board members govern the organization, providing oversight and strategic direction.
- Dawn Ritchie, Pres.
- Joe Conrad, Vice Pres.
- Wayne Shive, Vice Pres.
- Mark Maffey, Secretary
- David Schnepp, Treasurer
- John Caffray
- Barb Clark
- Dan Ernst
- Bob Hake
- Steve Hammer
- Ben Hess
- Stan Moore
- Rob Parker
- Phillip Smith II
- Jerry Sweeten
- Terry Thornsbury
ACRES staff members ensure the protection of this land every day.
Jason loves nature, and in particular, trees. At the age of five he declared that his life’s vocation would be caring for trees. He stayed true to this vision by earning degrees in forestry and ministry, serving as curator of trees for the North Carolina Zoo, and natural resources administrator for the City of Indianapolis. In 2006 he became ACRES’ executive director, which means he ensures ACRES’ land, funds, members, volunteers, and employees receive the attention and resources they need to thrive.
Jason’s favorite preserves are the ones that have been undisturbed the longest. Preserves with a century or more of time to function undisturbed provide a glimpse into the unique, healthy, and diverse systems that Forever will offer all ACRES’ properties.
Jason appreciates the reminder by Abraham Lincoln of the enduring quality of land:
“Laws change; people die; the land remains.”
Heather wants to know why you protect land. From donor cultivation to writing grants, she listens to your dreams and goals for investing in this work. She pays careful attention, because her job is to connect you to possibilities to realize your personal aspirations with ACRES Land Trust.
“From a very young age, I was instinctively drawn to trees. Even in the dead of winter, I could be found high up in a tree, book in hand, taking in a bird’s-eye-view of the natural world. I spent most of my childhood with my feet firmly planted in the canopy and I continue to find solace in natural settings.”
Her fondest memory is of walking trails with her daughter, then a toddler, listening to leaves rustling in the wind and imagining the secrets the trees were sharing of everything they had seen throughout their decades, sometimes centuries, of existence: Settlement, storms, development and all the creatures who lived among and enjoyed the company of trees, themselves included.
Heather’s early work experience in customer service opened a door into the world of philanthropy and continues to provide the foundation for her passion for working with members and donors. Her position with ACRES is the perfect marriage of her personal core values of preserving natural areas and her experience as a professional fundraiser.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
Land Management Specialist
Matt joins Land Management Specialist Evan Hill in the field, fighting non-native invasive plants, restoring natural places, and managing trails, boundaries and more, depending on
the day, the weather, and what each preserve needs.
Heading into the rain, chainsaw in tow, Matt says, “That’s what I love about the job. There is no typical day. Tomorrow will probably be completely different.” Prior to joining ACRES, Matt most recently served as part of the Crowe Forest Management team, and he volunteered and worked under contract for ACRES. He is experienced in woodworking, carpentry and cabinet-making.
Dunno’s days on the land date way back to close friends dubbing him “otter” for his attraction to playing in water. Today, Matt’s family shares his enthusiasm for natural places: “A typical day with my wife and kids is outdoors, shutting off electronics, getting away from modern society. My kids love it. I love watching them grow in it. My kids have a heart for nature.”
“To recover the wild in us, we must first recognize our making. Every man has flames of wilderness ignited in him at birth. We are created from passion and bear the likeness of an untamed Creator.” – Roger W. Thompson
Land Management Specialist
Evan works the land you love. Whether his day entails marking property boundaries, creating and maintaining trails, or leading interns in our battle against non-native invasive species, he spends much of his time caring for the land.
From a very early age Evan was fascinated by the complexity of nature.
“I grew up chasing frogs and snakes in my grandparents’ pond and building forts in the neighbor’s woods. I never imagined then that I could have a career doing such similar things.”
Evan’s background in wildlife and habitat management is rooted in a Wildlife degree from Purdue University. Twice a summer intern with ACRES, he also acquired wildlife experience with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
“My favorite ACRES preserve would have to be Spurgeon. The wetlands, topography, old growth trees, and species diversity that this preserve has to offer puts it at the top of my list. One of my fondest memories in a preserve, though, happened in Evelyn and Wendell Dygert Nature Preserve. I had found a great spot to eat my lunch and was biting into an apple when I spotted a fox not 30 yards away trotting towards me. It came within 15 yards, looked up at me, and then disappeared into its den.”
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir
Director of Land Management
Casey directs the management of our land. He determines how, when and what kind of non-native invasive plant species are eliminated. He works with a team of “ologists” – geologists, biologists, hydrologists and more – to make informed decisions. He establishes if a preserve can be open and where trails go to protect sensitive areas while encouraging your appreciation of the natural world. He guides our restoration and reforestation projects and he meets with families and individuals who want to protect their land with ACRES.
Like many of us, Casey had formative encounters with wildlife as a child. He continues to seek these experiences as an avid birder.
He brings to ACRES experience in the field and a background in art and design.
Flowers Creek and Wayne Township Prairie may not be Casey’s favorite preserves, but he invests plenty of sweat equity in restoring the Miami County and Kosciusko County properties along and near the Eel River.
Office and Volunteer Manager
Natasha keeps ACRES running by caring for our daily office and volunteer management needs. She ensures that our supporters’ funds are processed, that our vendors are paid. She works to welcome new volunteers and to retain our established crew. Natasha greets visitors, answers phones and serves staff needs with supplies and planning.
Natasha’s appreciation and passion for natural places took hold in adulthood, fostered in time by observing her mother’s committed care for a collection of house plants. From this love for plants, Natasha, her sister and their mother grew into avid gardeners, sharing bulbs, seeds and advice.
“I was not an outdoorsy child or adolescent! My love of nature began with plants, indoors. In my early twenties, I moved from northeastern Indiana to Washington State and began hiking. I was wild about the enormous ferns and moss drenched forests of the Pacific Northwest. I would seek out new city, state and national parks to visit and hit the trails. I found that spending time in natural places filled me with a deep sense of awe and joy that I did not experience elsewhere.
When I moved back to Indiana a few years later, I began seeking out parks and nature preserves to continue hiking and developed a deeper appreciation for Midwestern forests. I later found out about ACRES’ sites. Acres preserves have provided me with unique areas to hike and practice some amateur plant identification. I love to take enough time on a hike to find a wildflower or fungus and snap some photos. I especially enjoy the wildflower show at Bicentennial Woods each spring!”
Natasha’s professional background is in accounting and human resources; she has worked in the industries of construction and higher education.
“I am committed to using my skills and experience to help keep ACRES Land Trust operating smoothly and efficiently to protect land, forever.”
“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.” Aristotle
Reena supports the advancement team by creating, organizing and implementing outreach activities and events. She collects and records donations, stories and other information ACRES needs to function. A majority of member mailings and purchases are also taken care of by Reena.
Reena’s family would often travel to national parks on vacations, inspiring her to get involved in the environmental science field. She believed beauty was in “other places” like mountainous parks and seaside sanctuaries. Reena participated in the ACRES land management internship for three summers, and through Goshen College classes got to explore a lot of northeast Indiana. Her perception of local land changed through these experiences.
“I had really underestimated the Indiana landscape — both the extent to which non-native invasive plants have taken over our forests and lands and also the inspiring native beauty that I had missed.”
Discovering the redeeming qualities of the Hoosier landscape and the people who help protect it convinced her to stay in the area and give back.
“I often feel like land in the Midwest is overlooked and undervalued,” said Ramos. “If I was doing that, as someone who says she values natural places, I know it’s common. I’m motivated to help people see the beauty in this land that they might not have seen. I want to give people that ‘wow’ moment. I am very excited to be a part of a team that has the same values as I do, and I hope to make a difference in our local region.”
“So it goes…” Kurt Vonnegut
Bridgett captures and shares ACRES’ stories – from the passion of our dedicated members to the important work they make possible.
“Of course, the land itself has its own stories to share. These natural spaces are so much more than beautiful backdrops: They offer windows into the past and future, sustain plants and animals, and play a vital role in the health of our planet.”
Bridgett’s passion for storytelling revealed itself at an early age. She began her reporting career in high school as a student journalist and went on to graduate from Ball State with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
In 2012, her deep sense of curiosity led her to South Korea, where she lived and worked as an English teacher for more than three years. When she wasn’t in the classroom, she was learning the language, exploring the culture and traveling to the peninsula’s volcanic islands, bamboo forests and mountain-top temples.
She returned to her hometown of Fort Wayne in 2016 with a renewed appreciation for the region’s natural spaces. As a journalist covering northeast Indiana, some of her favorite stories have taken her outside – from following a first-time hunting class for women to interviewing outdoor enthusiasts about the joys of winter hiking.
“It’s such an honor to use my skills and experiences to support ACRES’ mission of protecting land forever. As a storyteller, I hope to convey the value these places bring to our lives.”
“I paint flowers so they will not die.” Frida Kahlo
Administrative & Facilities Volunteers
Volunteers serve ACRES in many ways. A few folks serve in weekly office roles.
Mary Anna Feitler