Posted by: Reena Ramos

  • 04/15/2019

Retired Huntington County teacher protects 23 acres along the Wabash River with ACRES Land Trust

ACRES Land Trust recently acquired the Philip and Jean Ross Preserve, the sixth property permanently protected by the local land trust in Huntington. To date, ACRES protects 7,094 acres in the tristate area with member and donor support, including 372 acres in Huntington, primarily along the Wabash River.

“Phil and I are conservationists,” says Jean Ross, sharing her own motivations and those of her late husband, Phil, for permanently protecting through ACRES their 23 acres of Huntington County land on the Wabash River.

The newly acquired land overlooks the Wabash River, bringing ACRES’ total protected land in Huntington County to 372. Photo by Thomas Sprunger

The Philip and Jean Ross Preserve overlooks the Wabash River from a 40-foot bank along 900 feet of river frontage. A mature upland and wetland forest grows here, separated by a ravine from a younger forest, a meadow and their unique Earth-berm home.

“With donor support, our pace of land acquisition in Huntington has gained momentum,” says Jason Kissel, executive director of the nonprofit. “It’s beneficial to keep adding to the total of protected lands in this Wabash River corridor. This place has incredible value that ACRES will preserve for future generations.”

Once ACRES acquires land for protection, the land trust will never sell or transfer the deed, guaranteeing its protection in perpetuity.

Photo by Joanna Stebing.

In 2017, ACRES, Indiana’s oldest and largest land trust, acquired the 107-acre Victory Noll Acres along the ancient bank of the Wabash River in partnership with the Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters. In 2015, the late Philip Smith donated a 7-acre addition to the nonprofit’s Tel-Hy preserve.

“We knew Tom and Jane Dustin very well,” says Jean Ross of two of ACRES founders. They met through the Izaak Walton League. Phil Ross was president of the Huntington Chapter and the Dustins had helped with the Allen County chapter.

“They were two people I admired as great conservationists. Phil and I were active environmentalists; the Dustins were gracious enough to teach and we learned. We were relentless. We fought the water treatment plant for clean water in Huntington. We spoke before legislators. It’s been quite a ride.”

The Ross’s stumbled onto their property in the late 80’s, looking for a place to build after raising their family. Jean recalls the work they put into building their home by hand, while she was teaching the third grade at Huntington County Community Schools. “I would leave school, change into my jeans, grab what I was working on – hammer and nails, brush and paint, whatever, and get to work.”

“Phil and I felt we were stewards of our land. We never thought of it or used it as ours. We were there to take care of the land, to preserve it and to pass it on. That’s what we’re doing.”

Photo by Jessica Dunno.

ACRES is still raising funds to complete this project.

ACRES’ permanently protected land in Huntington County

1994 | Tel-Hy, 39 acres

2004 | Doermann, 38 acres

2010 | Pehkokia Woods, 97 acres

2011 | Little River Landing, 53 acres

2015 | Tel-Hy addition, 7 acres

2017 | Victory Noll Acres, 107 acres

2018 | Philip and Jean Ross Preserve, 23 acres

Total permanently protected in Huntington County | 372 acres

ACRES Land Trust is a local nonprofit supported by members and donors. ACRES members help forever-protect 7,094 acres of natural and working land -and growing- on over 114 properties in the tristate area. You can join them at acreslandtrust.org and see their beautiful progress on Facebook at facebook.com/ACRES.LT