The Indiana Bicentennial Commission recently approved four new Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT) projects. The BNT is a statewide program aimed at expanding trails, wetlands and recreation sites to help celebrate Indiana’s 200 years of statehood in 2016.
The state park system was created during Indiana’s centennial celebration in 1916, and BNT projects will provide a similar legacy for generations of Hoosiers. The BNT was first announced by former Gov. Mitch Daniels, during his 2012 State of the State address.
Former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, co-chairs of the Bicentennial Commission, honored the request by starting the campaign to acquire property protecting conservation and recreations areas throughout the state. To date, 28 projects have been approved by the commission.
Skillman and Hamilton released a statement saying, “The Bicentennial Commission continues to be pleased with the overwhelming number of Bicentennial Nature Trust project applications from all across the state. We will continue to work with local communities and organizations to ensure the Bicentennial Nature Trust is a successful addition to our 2016 bicentennial commemoration.”
State funds and private donations are used for each BNT project. Money from the fund is matched no less than 1:1 with the local community or group sponsor. An initial $20 million in state funding was identified for BNT projects, and the Lilly Endowment donated another $10 million to the effort.
The state is seeking additional private donations of land and money, as well as input from communities on viable projects. Applications for the Nature Trust may be found online at www.dnr.IN.gov /heritage/7309.htm
Recipients and their approved BNT projects are:
•Shirley Heinze Land Trust ($240,000 BNT, total cost $480,000): Purchase of 64 acres in Porter County formerly operated as Camp Meadowbrook, located along the north slope of the Valparaiso Moraine, which is part of the biologically important Moraine forest.
A variety of habitats and natural communities are found at the site – upland forest, a deep ravine along a stream, mixed-age woodlands, reclaimed cropland, shrub lands, scattered patches of evergreens and a forested wetland.
•Lake County Parks ($16,250 BNT, total cost $42,500): Purchase of two parcels totaling five acres as additions to an existing 728-acre park in Lake County. One is a 4.5-acre dry mesic sand forest and the half-acre plot is shrub swamp.
The additions will enhance connections to the Oak Savannah Trail Corridor north of the park and protect an in-holding of rare plant communities.
•Blue Heron Ministries, Inc. ($150,000 BNT, total cost $300,000): Purchase of 122 acres around Big Center Lake on the western edge of Angola in Steuben County. The site will be developed as a nature preserve and passive recreation site for hiking, bird watching, fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
•Heritage Trail Conservancy ($75,000 BNT, total cost $150,000): Purchase of a 4.94-acre lot in Madison in Jefferson County including Ohio River frontage and land on either side of the existing Heritage Trail. Acquisition will allow expansion of a public park along the entry to the Heritage Trail.
For more information on the Bicentennial Commission, visit www.in.gov/indiana2016
Register for guided spring hikes at nature preserves
The Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves is offering guided hikes at nature preserves across the state on April 20, Earth Day, and May 11, which is Mother’s Day weekend.
Registration is open now for the hikes and runs through April 6. Space is limited, so participants are encouraged to register early. The hikes are free and start at 10 a.m. local time. Participants will experience spring wildflowers in bloom and old-growth forests.
The hikes are at the following state nature preserves: Calli; Eagle’s Crest, in Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis; Donaldson’s Woods, in Spring Mill State Park; Dunes, in Indiana Dunes State Park; Olin Lake; Shrader-Weaver; Rocky Hollow-Falls Canyon, in Turkey Run State Park; and Warbler Woods, in Fort Harrison State Park.
Visiting one or more of our unique and beautiful nature preserves would be a great way to celebrate Earth Day and Mother’s Day weekend. For more information and to register online, visit www.in.gov/dnr/naturepreserve
Live falcon program at Dunes State Park
Indiana Dunes State Park will be hosting a special falcon program on Feb. 9 from the park’s Nature Center at 1 p.m. (CST). The program will feature North America’s smallest falcon, the American kestrel, and a partnership program where citizens may help build and monitor kestrel nest boxes.
A live kestrel will be featured during the program. The American kestrel is of concern due to a declining population. American Kestrel Partnership participants get reimbursed for nest boxes they erect on their properties.
The program is free after paying the standard state park entrance fees. For more information, contact the Nature Center at 219-926-1390. Indiana Dunes State Park is located at 1600 North 25 E., Chesterton, IN 46304.
Live exotic animal show at Mounds Park
The live exotic animal show “Critter Junction” is back at Mounds State Park on Feb. 16. The program will be at 1 p.m. in the Visitor Center. The cost is just $3 per person, and all proceeds benefit Mounds State Park.
Registration is recommended, by calling 765-649-8128, and seating is limited. The exciting show is sponsored by the Friends of Mounds State Park.
You wouldn’t see any of the animals in the program in Indiana. Come and see the exotic critters and hear about their adoption stories and the importance of being a responsible pet owner. Steve Thompson is an Interpretive Naturalist with a strong love for all critters, and he is eager to share this with the public.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Jack Spaulding may contact him by email at email@example.com or by writing to him in care of this publication.