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Source: NM News-Journal, Aug 18, 2009


Wildlife enthusiasts need go to only one place to see hundreds of species of plants, birds, an endangered amphibian, and a variety of habitats, including oak-hickory forests, a pond, tall grass prairie, and forested swamp.

Wildwood Nature Preserve, a unique property located seven miles northwest of North Manchester, was recently awarded extra protection as a state-designated nature preserve.

Its significance was appreciated by its former owners, Bob and Alice Frantz, who purchased the 237 acres in 1960. To protect the land from the possibility of future development, they sold Wildwood to ACRES Land Trust in 2002.

The state designation will provide further protection and additional resources to the nonprofit organization in the care of Wildwood.

ACRES Executive Director Jason Kissel said, “The designation as a nature preserve is the highest level of protection awarded by the state of Indiana. It’s basically the state saying, “This is the best of the best undeveloped land we have left in Indiana.”

The public is invited to a dedication ceremony Saturday, September 12 at 2 p.m. John Becone, division director, DNR Division of Nature Preserves, and Kissel will share a few comments. Following the brief ceremony will be a guided tour and refreshments for those attending.

The preserve is open daily to the public from dawn until dusk, and includes 4.8 miles of trails. It is located in Kosciusko County, with the entrance on State Road 14 just east of S. County Farm Road.

“The land is unique in that it has a lot of different types of vegetation and a diversity of habitats within the area, including wetlands,” Kissel said.

ACRES Land Trust is currently conducting a study of the site. Some of the areas were never developed, and others have been restored from what was farmland in the 1800s. There are both old and young growth forests on the preserve.

ACRES Land Trust has 71 properties in northeast Indiana, southern Michigan, and northwest Ohio. Of those, 21 are state-designated preserves.

“The reason we like to have the state designation is because we are a private property owner. As a state nature preserve, it will be protected from development through eminent domain and we’ll be able to enlist additional state resources. The state makes a good partner in protecting these areas,” Kissel said.

Development isn’t the only threat to wildlife habitat. Invasive species are a problem at many nature preserves. “Invasive species are a widespread threat in northeast Indiana. At Wildwood, the biggest problems we have are with Garlic Mustard and Autumn Olive. We’re keeping a handle on it, but it’s always a challenge,” he explained.

Autumn Olive can quickly take over an area and eliminate other species, reducing the variety and amount of food for wildlife. Garlic mustard also takes over large areas, and is a threat to spring wildflowers. It also provides less food for animals.

The benefits of the state designation include the help of state conservation officers and technical support in controlling invasive species.

Wildwood is now one of 229 state nature preserves in Indiana.