This blog entry was originally posted through Enbridge on October 5, 2021. Some information has been updated from the original post.
Shirley Heinze Land Trust uses Meadowbrook Nature Preserve trail system to engage residents in nature and conservation
On a guided hike through Meadowbrook Nature Preserve in northwest Indiana, visitors traverse newly expanded trail systems through oak and beech forests, bolstered by recent reforestation efforts.
Up and down gently hilly terrain, they learn about native plants like trillium and other spring wildflowers, thriving thanks to conservation efforts.
Young and old listen for the too-too-too of the saw-whet owl, one of North America’s smallest owls, studied in the preserve.
While experiencing nature, they listen to stories of the land.
“Our visitors enjoy learning that Meadowbrook lies right in the path of the Valparaiso moraine, formed during the last glaciation period,” explains Kristopher Krouse, executive director of Shirley Heinze Land Trust, which acquired the property from a Chicago-area Girl Scouts organization in 2013. “The glacial till makes the land conducive for meandering streams and unique forested areas you typically don’t see in northwestern Indiana.”
The property is one of 20 preserves totaling 2,700 acres protected and managed by the land trust, which celebrated its 40th year in 2021.
“We are technically the owner of these lands, but really, they are for the public,” Krouse says. Conservation efforts are ongoing, including the development of an agricultural and water program.
To support public use and interest in Meadowbrook, Krouse and his team began a project to expand the amenities on the preserve in late 2021. These improvements to restrooms, parking and pedestrian trails will “allow us to develop ways to bring more people from urban and rural communities to the nature preserve,” Krouse explains, noting the organization’s head office is also on site.
Through public engagement and outreach, the land trust will provide opportunities for school groups, service clubs, post-secondary students, and the general public to connect with the land at Meadowbrook.
With support from a $10,000 Enbridge Fueling Futures grant, the land trust aims to engage more than 500 people through guided hikes, presentations, workshops and field trips.
In addition, a key focus of Enbridge’s grant will support efforts to match post-secondary students with internship opportunities at the preserve to spark career paths in conservation.
“We would like people to have a better understanding and depth of knowledge of the environmental, historical, and cultural significance of the landscapes that we’re protecting,” Krouse explains, adding that the reforestation work at Meadowbrook makes the preserve “a prime example of the large-scale restorations we have the potential to do elsewhere.”
Through their work with children, students, adults, organizations and partners, the land trust provides opportunities for people to “enjoy land that is essentially theirs,” Krouse says. “These spaces will become an important part of their quality of life.”