Posted by: Bridgett Hernandez

  • 11/22/2020

Raising Our Standards: Quality over Quantity

The core of ACRES mission—to protect local land—drives everything we do. Protecting land is possible only when people participate by volunteering, donating and sharing ACRES with others. Because more people participating means more land protected and better cared for, our current strategic plan focuses on building capacity: increasing the number of people supporting this meaningful work.

Based on 2018 research conducted by ACRES, we know a sizable number of folks first learn about us through trails offered at our open preserves. They may finally check out a property after driving by it daily on their way to work. Maybe they were invited by a friend who’s an ACRES member to explore a nearby preserve. We know that people from all walks of life enjoy ACRES trails: parents exploring with kids, runners logging miles of trail runs, individuals seeking a place to reflect and recharge. Although trails are not our primary mission, they benefit the general community while functioning as a useful way to draw people to ACRES.

Based on this same research, and anecdotally, we know there is often confusion about who owns the preserves and what guests can expect when they stop for a visit. Is it a county park? What kind of parking is available? What rules should I follow? Why doesn’t this property “feel” like other ACRES preserves I’ve visited?

Old wooden sign that reads, "Florence's Trail" at Bicentennial Woods.

ACRES leadership realizes that the preserve visitor experience varies greatly from property to property, and we’re missing opportunities to encourage support for ACRES mission. If we’re going to raise awareness about these special places and increase support for them, it’s time to raise our standards for that portion of a preserve experience that we can control.

ACRES leadership recently set new minimum amenity standards. These standards will help send a clear message to preserve visitors that this is an ACRES property, thus strengthening our brand in hopes of inspiring more people to participate in our mission “to value, appreciate, and support these places for the benefit of all, today and forever.”

At the very least, preserve visitors can expect:

  • Entrance sign informing visitors they have arrived at their destination while raising awareness of those driving by that the preserve exists, and that it is owned and protected by ACRES Land Trust and its members
  • Gravel parking lot big enough for six vehicles, well-maintained and free of potholes and ruts
  • Trailhead sign encouraging respectful use of the property and asking visitors to help by joining ACRES
  • Trails are clearly-defined, well-maintained earthen paths. Forested trails are maintained at least monthly, with grass trails maintained more frequently during the growing season.
  • Trail map available online for address and most current wayfinding. (Yes—we’ll be updating the book too!)
New gravel parking lot at Tom and Jane Dustin Preserve.
Visitor amenity updates are underway at Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve, where a new gravel parking lot has been installed on Chapman Road in Huntertown.

This process led us to realize some very tough decisions needed to be made. Not all of our open preserves can accommodate these new standards. And compared to similar organizations and even some trails groups, ACRES offers an extraordinarily high number of trails (read more at acreslandtrust.org/beyondtrails). It also can be argued that by offering trails, we are negatively impacting the land we promise to protect and care for. For all these reasons, we will retire trail systems at approximately 20 open properties by the end of 2024, leaving about 30 trail systems open to the public, from dawn to dusk, every day of the year.

This decision was not made lightly. Great time, care, and consideration was given to each trail system slated to retire. Criteria included proximity to other trail systems, size, inaccessibility due to flooding, low visitation and the inability to enhance visitor amenities to our new standards. ACRES staff presented this approach to both Land Management & Protection and Advancement committees before sending it to our Board of Directors for final approval. Staff also discussed this approach with surviving land donors to secure their approval.

ACRES leadership feels this approach is better aligned with our mission to protect land. Instead of reducing the amount invested in visitor amenities, it will be reallocated and concentrated on fewer trail systems. Although the number of trail systems will decrease, the quality of the visitor experience will increase, inspiring new support for protecting local land.

New call to action sign mounted at Tom and Jane Dustin Preserve.
Acres Along the Wabash2021 — COMPLETE
Bibler Nature Preserve2021 — COMPLETE
Edna W. Spurgeon Woodland Reserve2021 — COMPLETE
Fogwell Forest2021 — COMPLETE
Kauffman Nature Sanctuary2021 — COMPLETE
Lloyd W. Bender Memorial Forest2021 — COMPLETE
Lonidaw2021 — COMPLETE
Evelyn and Wendell Dygert Nature Preserve2022 — COMPLETE
Hanging Rock2022 — COMPLETE
Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run2022 — COMPLETE
Kokiwanee2022 — COMPLETE
Pehkokia Woods2022 — COMPLETE
Seven Pillars2022 — COMPLETE
Tel-Hy2022 — COMPLETE
Tom and Jane Dustin (Johnson) Nature Preserve2022 — COMPLETE
Wildwood Nature Preserve2022 — COMPLETE
Asherwood2022 — COMPLETE
Fawn River Nature Preserve2023 — COMPLETE
Marion’s Woods2023 — COMPLETE
Robb Hidden Canyon2023 — COMPLETE
Ropchan Memorial2023 — COMPLETE
Wing Haven2023 — COMPLETE
Bicentennial Woods2024 — COMPLETE
Blue Cast Springs2024
Heinzerling Family Five Points Nature Preserve2024
James P. Covell Nature Preserve2024
McNabb-Walter Nature Preserve2024
Mengerson Nature Reserve2024
Spring Lake Woods and Bog2024
Vandolah Nature Preserve2024
Please be advised that this list is subject to change as ACRES continues to evaluate properties.
Anna Brand Hammer ReserveCLOSED
Art Hammer WetlandsCLOSED
Cypress MeadowCLOSED
Detering Nature PreserveCLOSED
G. Richard and Mary H. Culp Nature PreserveCLOSED
Herman F. Hammer WaldCLOSED
Little Cedar Creek Wildlife SanctuaryCLOSED
Little Wabash River Nature PreserveCLOSED
Madison Township SchoolCLOSED
Munro Nature PreserveCLOSED
Stark Nature PreserveCLOSED
Bock Nature PreserveCLOSED
Glennwood Nature PreserveCLOSED
Mary Thornton Nature PreserveCLOSED
Ball Lake Nature PreserveCLOSED
Beechwood, Foster and Majneri Nature PreservesCLOSED
Brammall Nature PreserveCLOSED
Ropchan Wildlife RefugeCLOSED
Flat Rock CreekCLOSED
Florence Badger Nature PreserveDec. 31, 2024
Fox Fire WoodsDec. 31, 2024
Maumee River OverlookCLOSED
Please be advised that this list is subject to change as ACRES continues to evaluate properties.


Debbie Branfield - November 6, 2021 - 2:00 pm

I support your plan and, as a member & volunteer, have explained the rationale for the preserve closures to many friends. The upside to your plan is preserve improvements - I visited Acres Along the Wabash and appreciate the expanded parking and trail clean-up - in the past, I’ve encountered several impassable, overgrown stretches, but not today! Is there a way for volunteers help with improving navigation in the open preserves? So many have spotty trail markers; could a group help with posting markers or blazing?

Bridgett Hernandez - November 10, 2021 - 11:25 am

Hi, Debbie! Thanks for your comment and support as a member and volunteer. Our goal is for everyone to have the same positive experience you did at Acres Along the Wabash at every open preserve. We have recently sent volunteers out to nine preserves to help update our trail maps. As for trail marking/making the actual trail more obvious, there are definitely some volunteer opportunities. Please reach out to our volunteer coordinator Reena Ramos at [email protected] to learn how you can help. Thanks again for reaching out!

Patricia Lahrman - April 30, 2021 - 1:29 pm

What can we do to keep DETERING NATURE PRESERVE open? It is being used by many people.

Jessica Jubin - July 16, 2021 - 1:08 pm

You were so kind to allow us to visit Detering Preserve when we visited from Texas. The Deterings were my paternal great aunt and uncle who bequeathed it to Esther who in turn left it to Acres. We were so excited to see it preserved, and my dad was able to show me the old site of the house and even the left over bits of the water pump where he had to fetch the water during the hot summers. It is quite sad to see this gem will no longer be accesible to the public, but we do understand the expenses of land management, especially invasives mitigation. If you would like to contact me, I'd be interested in knowing what the land management needs would be as we would be sad to see it go fallow.

Bridgett Hernandez - July 19, 2021 - 1:55 pm

Jessica, many thanks for sharing your family’s connection to the land and offering to help with land management needs. Retiring trails at this well-loved preserve and others was a difficult decision to make, but maintaining visitor amenities (signs, parking lots, trails, etc.) at 50+ preserves diverts resources from ACRES’ primary mission – protecting land. Retiring trails will allow us to dedicate more resources to non-native invasive species mitigation at Detering and across our service area. I can assure you that this preserve will not be left to go fallow; it will continue to be protected and managed after the trails are retired. Additionally, occasional public events will be held there like volunteer workdays. I realize this doesn’t adequately replace the preserve’s current access, but there will still be opportunities for the community to enjoy the property. If you would still like help or have any other questions, please give us a call at 260-637-2273 or email us at [email protected]. Thank you! -Bridgett Hernandez, ACRES Communication Manager

Bridgett Hernandez - May 3, 2021 - 2:48 pm

Thanks for reaching out, Patricia. It’s clear you have a special connection to this property, and we appreciate your question. ACRES is proud to offer trails at many member-supported preserves for free public use, but our first priority is protecting land and Detering has significant restoration needs, including invasive species removal. Additionally, similar hiking opportunities exist on nearby properties. Lonidaw offers a great trail system and is just a two-minute drive away. Detering will continue to be protected and managed after the trails are closed. In fact, those tasks will be better performed without daily public access. Thanks again for your interest and for caring enough to reach out with your question. —Bridgett Hernandez, communications manager for ACRES Land Trust

Emily - April 2, 2021 - 12:42 am

Thank you for letting us know the latest on Acres' happenings. I appreciate the newsletter and the updates therein very much. Thank you for the dedication that you all put in and thank you for offering such a lovely and practical opportunity to be a part of Acres, through memberships and donations, as well as volunteerism. I hope that people will put their time and energy towards going out and enjoying these preserves, because that is key. There is still a LOT of time to go and walk and take pictures! Why not tell your friends, family, coworkers, and community about your local treasure, name Acres Land Trust? It is no doubt difficult to let go of things dear to us and others, such as visiting lovely nature areas. They truly are very special places dear to our hearts. Regarding the trails that are closing, knowing that plants and animals, from microbes all the way up to giant trees, will forever be free to live and never be touched by the encroachment of man does my heart a great deal of good. The mission is tremendously important! -- entrusted into a Trust hits a home run with each and every added Acre! ❤️

Bridgett Hernandez - April 5, 2021 - 9:21 am

Thank you for your words of support! People like you, people who value land, make this work possible. Thank you!

Anna Hornberger - March 5, 2021 - 10:27 am

Overall I think this is a great idea. Though I'm also quite saddened to see Detering on the chopping block - I will miss sitting on that bench and looking out at the lake!!

Josh Shepherd - February 26, 2021 - 6:01 pm

Being an ACRES member I support the decision. Although I am very sad to see Culp on the retiring list. It is the closest preserve to my home and is special to me.

Bridgett Hernandez - March 3, 2021 - 9:49 pm

Josh, thank you for supporting ACRES as a member and for sharing your special connection to Culp. We hope you will continue to enjoy the trails. Edna W. Spurgeon Woodland Reserve is a great one to check out nearby. -Bridgett Hernandez, Communications Manager

Laura Snipes - February 23, 2021 - 6:37 pm

I support your efforts to concentrate on improving some preserves and on closing others. Undoubtedly there will be unhappy people, but I hope they understand and appreciate your goals. Keep up the good work. Laura Snipes

Bridgett Hernandez - March 3, 2021 - 3:18 pm

Thank you, Laura!

Kevin L. Yant - December 10, 2020 - 3:19 pm

I to am disturbed by the decision to close Detering. It was one of the first properties I ever visited and spurred me to become a member. I realize that it isn't one of the more spectacular preserves like nearby Lonidaw, but it does get a lot of use year round. I always see cars there. Please reconsider keeping Detering open. Thank you.

Bridgett Hernandez - December 11, 2020 - 3:18 pm

Kevin, thank you for supporting ACRES as a member and sharing your appreciation of Detering. The decision to retire this trail system was not made lightly. Our members help protect and care for 7,230 acres of natural and working land on 117 properties, and we believe each one is an inspiring place worthy of appreciation. However, the core of ACRES mission is protecting and restoring land. This drives everything we do, including the decision to retire trail systems and focus our resources on improving visitor amenities at open preserves. We want more people to have experiences like your own and be inspired to join us in protecting land forever. To read more about our trails philosophy, check out acreslandtrust.org/beyondtrails

Patty Lahrman - November 30, 2020 - 9:10 pm

Please, please do not close the Detering Nature Preserve. We love this preserve. It is the only access we have to sit and enjoy the lake. The trail is smooth and great for all needs. There is a gravel parking lot in place now. Our view of the lake in recent years has been taken over by housing. I would hate to see this close or worse yet sold for development. Please reconsider.

Bridgett Hernandez - December 1, 2020 - 9:29 pm

Thank you for reaching out and sharing your special connection to Detering Nature Preserve. We can assure you that even though public access will end at these properties, ACRES will continue to dedicate the same level of stewardship to these areas. Once ACRES protects a property, it will never sell or transfer the deed. This decision was not made lightly, however we feel this approach is better aligned with our mission to protect land. In fact, retiring the trail system at Detering will allow ACRES to focus on the property’s land restoration needs, including invasive species removal. We don’t yet have an exact date for when this trail system will be retired, but we’ll try to give the public as much notice as possible. We hope that you continue to enjoy the trails made available through the support of our members. We encourage you to check out Lonidaw, another ACRES nature preserve only a two-minute drive from Detering.