Preserve 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

Download the Comprehensive Preserve Rules (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

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.

If you haven’t explored in a while, or if you have questions, this blog post might help. It 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 is a nature preserve? How is it different from a park?
A nature preserve is a protected place where plants, animals and natural features remain, undisturbed. ACRES preserves deepen visitors’ understanding, appreciation and connection to nature. ACRES 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; the primary purpose of a park is recreation.

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, exclusive invitations to closed preserves 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 visit. Would you like to move the tree? If you can safely do so, thank you! Snap a selfie and share your investment in this land on Facebook or Instagram to inspire others to respect the trails and protect land.

Is it a large tree, making the trail impassable or dangerous? Please let us know. If you can snap 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.

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 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. You can help protect land by sharing your excursion on our Facebook and Instagram feeds.

Why do I need to stay on trail?
You need to stay on the trails to help protect the plant, animal and even microbial communities in the preserves. By staying on trails, you also help prevent the spread of non-native invasive species.

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 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.

You will find an accessible example of a bog at Glennwood Nature Preserve in Kosciusko County.

Why can’t I hike on all the ACRES properties? Why are some closed?
Though ACRES offers more than 70 miles trails 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.

In line with 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.

And some of ACRES preserves are life estates, where the previous owner currently lives or retains land use rights.

Why does ACRES have trails?
Many land trusts and preservation groups offer limited or no public access to the natural areas they protect. ACRES chose to create trail systems for you to explore, appreciate and understand the value of your natural areas. ACRES believes public access increases land preservation.

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.

How does ACRES protect land?
Once ACRES Land Trust protects a property, our name will always remain on the deed, guaranteeing its permanent protection.

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 Investment Properties. Learn more about ACRES Land Trust’s Categories (PDF)

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.

I LOVE the preserves! I LOVE ACRES! How can I help?
Do what comes naturally!

  • Become a member. ACRES members are the lifeblood of the organization and they get some pretty cool benefits for their commitment.
  • Share your love! Take friends or family for a hike, share photos on Facebook or Instagram, wear ACRES gear on and off trail, give Preserve Guides 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.
  • Invest. You can be a part of this grand legacy. No one of us 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.