By Summer Intern Liz Zombik firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Saturday, I had a wonderful time attending the second Moraine Forest workshop and hike, hosted by Shirley Heinze Land Trust and LaPorte County Conservation Trust. This was one in a series of several hikes that incorporates partner organizations from around Northwest Indiana. The hope is that they will be able to raise the awareness of conservation options and assist landowners to preserve the Moraine Forest. Saturday’s workshop and hike was located at Springfield Fen in LaPorte.
When I walked in, Jim Erdelac of Shirley Heinze Land Trust and Bob Boklund of LaPorte County Conservation Trust greeted me promptly along with other members of the LaPorte County Conservation Trust. I also introduced myself to a family of landowners, the Chamber’s. Jim began the workshop by explaining to the group what exactly the purposes of land trusts are. He discussed how the goal is to obtain land through private sale, donation, or conservation easement in efforts to preserve land that holds conservation potential.
He spoke on how the Moraine forest area was of particular interest due to the unique biodiversity within the moraine. The Valparaiso Moraine contains plant life that is unique to our area, sometimes seen only in another particular region of the country. He informed us how the Moraine is not only important for its scenic beauty, but also how it provides us with better water quality, air quality, recreation activities, and also how it improves our economy because it provides a place for people to want to visit and travel to.
At the end of the workshop Bob showed pictures and discussed how different the forest areas of Indiana are today from how they were in the past, including the Valparaiso Moraine. The images showed a major decline in the amount of forest Indiana has today. The Northwest of the state also had a major decline in forest, especially along the Lake Michigan coast. At this point I asked Leroy and Stacey Chambers what it was they wanted to get out of today’s hike and workshop, they responded saying, “We really wanted to just get some general information because we live directly near the interested lands, part of it is our neighbor’s backyard. We’d like to know also, if anything, part of the land would be able to be kept as a hunting preserve. And we’re concerned about losing the native habitat of the area, we don’t want it developed, we want to keep it undeveloped. Also we are concerned about the water quality, we have streams running all through the property”.
When the workshop was over we all headed over to the moraine and Springfield Fen preserve area. It was here I really learned the most. We were lead through the area by Liz, a member of the LaPorte County Conservation Trust, who used to work at the preserve, and along with the others, was extremely knowledgeable of the land. I was in awe as we walked through the trails. I was shown the spice bush, hornbeam trees, butternut trees, beautiful blooming marsh marigolds, red oak, tulip trees, and so much more. We were told how even though the multiflora rose may be pretty, it was a non-native plant threatening the local plant life. We were shown the little streams with the blooming skunk cabbage that lead down the fen area where we walked along land that was bog like and looked upon Beaver Pond. This was the part of the day that had the most impact on me. While we learned in the workshop how beneficial it is to preserve the land, actually seeing everything really made it clear to me how and why land trusts are making efforts to preserve the interested areas.
When the hike was over we all said our goodbyes. I can honestly say after the day I was extremely excited to see and learn more. Being around such an enthusiastic, concerned and knowledgeable group only increased my desires to come back next week, where I hope I will learn even more of our wonderful Valparaiso Moraine.