Preserve Visitor Rules

As a preserve visitor, you are responsible for keeping these habitats undisturbed. Follow these rules to allow the preserve’s plants, wildlife and natural formations to thrive here, in place, for generations:


Open Dawn til Dusk

Foot Traffic Only

Dogs Allowed, Always On Leash

Take Nothing, Leave Nothing

Stay On The Trails

Commercial use, including photography, prohibited


Click here for Comprehensive Rules for Public Use (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions


How does ACRES protect land?

We work with private landowners to permanently protect their land by guaranteeing to never develop or sell it. Once ACRES protects a property, our name will always remain on the deed.

Some land comes to ACRES as a donation. Most properties are sold to ACRES at a discounted rate or in rare cases ACRES purchases property for the full market value.

ACRES does everything possible to ensure permanent protection within the current legal framework of private land ownership law. Our founders wrote and helped introduce Indiana’s Nature Preserve Act established in 1967 to extend protection to preserves throughout the state.

Today, thanks to your generous support, dividends from the ACRES endowment now provide the financial sustainability to ensure that we can protect these properties forever. A conservative draw on dividends earned on our endowment will pay necessary assessments, drainage taxes and fees on the properties we currently own.

ACRES protects land in three categories: Nature Preserves, Protected Lands, and Transferable Properties.

How does ACRES steward nature preserves?

As stewards, our focus is twofold: We are committed to preserving healthy natural systems by limiting human disturbance in these areas. You may notice when a tree falls in an ACRES nature preserve, we don’t haul it away – it’s left to break down, providing food and shelter for other plants and wildlife.

In other areas, ACRES takes a much more hands-on approach to restoring biodiversity by actively managing non-native invasive species and installing native habitat. Our team focuses on major threats and on specific places over a period of time. This approach is necessary in plant communities where human impact has greatly altered the area, no longer allowing it to function as a healthy part of the ecosystem.

How is ACRES funded?

As a nonprofit organization, ACRES is funded primarily through your private donations. Your gifts and contributions of all sizes join together with those of others, protecting these special places in perpetuity.

People protect land for a variety of reasons; community conservation serves many and meets many goals. Check out our Deep Map for more.

ACRES also receives generous support from our region’s community foundations, local private foundations and major donors.

How can I help?

We’re so glad you asked! ACRES invites you to take action for what you value.

  • Become a member. ACRES members help protect land, restore habitat and provide trails.
  • Share ACRES: Take friends or family for a hike, share photos on Facebook or Instagram, wear ACRES gear on and off trail, give Trail Guides or other ACRES merchandise as gifts.
  • Volunteer. ACRES has exciting and simple ways to contribute sweat equity (and not so sweaty equity, too!). Protecting land takes a team – you can join in.
  • Donate: You can be a part of this grand legacy. No one can promise to protect thousands of acres of land forever. Together, your investment pools with those of your friends and neighbors, ensuring these lands will remain undisturbed, for generations.
  • Protect your land. ACRES permanently protects natural places and working lands by guaranteeing to never develop or transfer them. ACRES’ name will always remain on the deed. Contact ACRES to learn about your options.
  • Steward your land: You can make a difference in your own backyard by managing non-native invasive species on your property. Many invasive species we encounter in natural areas likely originated in someone’s landscaping. Autumn olive, honeysuckle, multiflora rose, callery pear, burning bush and barberry are some of the more common invasive species you may encounter. Consider native alternatives when it comes to landscaping your property.

Does ACRES compete or cooperate with Little River Wetland Project, The Nature Conservancy or other natural resource groups?

ACRES Land Trust and each of these organizations are separate nonprofits with shared values, strong ties, and distinct missions. Our organizations work together to benefit our community’s appreciation and understanding of natural areas, to share knowledge, and to complement each other’s skill sets, priorities and missions.

What is a nature preserve? How is it different from a park?

A nature preserve is a protected place where plants, animals and natural features can thrive, undisturbed. ACRES preserves deepen visitors’ understanding, appreciation and connection to nature. Trails in a nature preserves offer experiences in the natural world where flora and fauna will continue to live and die, in place, for generations. The primary purpose of a nature preserve is preservation: supporting the health of the place itself and the life it holds; the primary purpose of a park is usually recreation.

What do I need to know before walking through an ACRES preserve?

Other than our simple rules, you don’t need to know much! In fact, much of the time, you’ll be able to follow the trail back to your car without any outside information or guidance.

This blog post offers guidance on:

  • finding your way, including using our live map with your smart phone
  • what to expect on ACRES natural trails
  • what else you might consider

What are ACRES trail conditions?

ACRES trails are natural; they aren’t paved or altered in any way other than the disturbance it takes to clear the path and keep it trimmed. We mow grassy trails about once a month in the growing season. Depending on when you visit between our work days, you may encounter tall grass. Your best guide is local conditions; if it has been rainy, trails will be muddy. If lawn grasses are growing quickly, the same will be true in our preserves.

Do I need to be a member to hike?

Nope. ACRES trails are free for everyone and open from dawn dusk, thanks to member support! If you want to be a part of this community protecting land, you can become a member and enjoy the many benefits of preservation: pride, joy, invitations to members-only events and outings and more.

A tree is down across the trail. What should I do?

Can you step over it? Keep on trekking. ACRES staff or volunteers will remove it during their next monthly visit if necessary.

Is it a large tree, making the trail impassable or dangerous? Please let us know by emailing [email protected] or calling the ACRES office at 260-637-2273.

If you can take a photo and share your location this helps ACRES prioritize trail system maintenance. Thank You!

Can I run on the trails?

Yes! The trails provide excellent natural running paths. You might appreciate the cooler temperatures provided by a forest canopy during hotter seasons. The preserves also provide you the opportunity to engage all your senses in scenery that is always changing – on land that is thriving with life. Please be considerate of other preserve visitors.

Why do dogs always need to be on a leash?

Your dogs need to always be on leash not only to protect the plant and animal communities in the preserves, but also to ensure other preserve visitors feel safe.

Why are some trail connections fenced and closed?

ACRES closes trails for a variety of reasons; the fences are meant to keep visitors out of an area. Some closures are temporary, others are longer-term or permanent.

Often, we close lengths of trails to protect sensitive habitat, reduce or prevent erosion and for safety while we’re working (note: we may not always be present to be “working” in an area; some projects take return visits). Other times ACRES closes trails to reduce pressure on the preserve from foot traffic.

ACRES intends to show visitors the most spectacular places within a preserve by taking you there on the trail system.

Why don’t the trails go through an entire preserve? Why can’t I see the bog and rare plants at Spring Lake Woods and Bog?

Our job is to protect these sensitive areas. Trails are offered in support of preservation and trail systems must balance your experience with our mission to protect natural areas.

At Spring Lake Woods and Bog, in particular, the bog is inaccessible and sensitive. The bog ground is not solid, making trail construction expensive, difficult and, most importantly, disruptive to the natural community that ACRES protects there.

Why can’t I hike on all the ACRES properties? Why are some closed?

Though ACRES offers trail systems at many preserves, open dawn to dusk at no charge to visitors, this service is a small part of our work.

ACRES Land Trust members, donors and supporters invest in our promise to protect these natural places – forever. Trails support our mission, helping folks enjoy the benefits of nature and inviting preserve visitors like you to invest in helping to protect them.

Our general philosophy is that opening new trails is an exception that would require careful consideration. That said, there are sometimes specific reasons that some properties remain closed.

  • In line with the ACRES mission, some preserves are closed to protect sensitive areas.
  • Some preserves are closed because they are inaccessible, perhaps too marshy for trails or not situated for a direct access point. Some preserves are too small to create and maintain trails for an adequate visitor experience.
  • Some of ACRES preserves are life estates, where the previous owner currently lives or retains land use rights.
  • Some preserves aren’t safe for visitors.
  • Some land donors may request that their donated land remain closed.

Is hunting allowed on ACRES preserves?

ACRES does hunt some closed properties; we do not sell hunting leases. We have no openings for new hunters at this time.

I plan to hunt an adjacent property. Can I track and retrieve an injured animal from an ACRES property?

Before heading out, please call our office at 260-637-2273 for further instructions.

Can I bring my school classroom, youth group, family nature club or walking group to the preserve? Can we host our own event?

Yes! You are encouraged to use the preserves as venues for your non-commercial group activity. Simply follow the comprehensive list of ACRES preserve rules and allow preserve visitors not associated with your group access to the trails and parking during your outing.

Please contact ACRES for commercial use inquiries: 260-637-2273 or [email protected]. Generally speaking, commercial use is prohibited. Commercial uses that promote conservation may be reviewed; Indiana state law prohibits commercial use in our state-dedicated nature preserves.