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Fort Wayne Nature Preserve Offers Rare Sights

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The start of the .7-mile trail off of Lake Everett Drive in Northwest Fort Wayne.

Spring Lake Woods and Bog opened to the public this weekend. The trail on the northwest side of Fort Wayne is close to the city’s only natural lake. It includes a natural bog and plant life rare to this part of the country.

 

 The main trail of the Spring Lake Woods and Bog is about a mile long.

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Credit Lisa Ryan, WBOI News
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The cinnamon fern can reach heights of 6 feet.

The nature preserve is home to rare plants, including the cypress-knee sedge, which is especially uncommon in northern parts of the country. Tall, greenish-brown cinnamon ferns are abundant, giving certain parts of the preserve a tropical feel. Skunk cabbage looks like a pretty flower, but its namesake smell might make it unpleasant to have in a home.

I met up with Scott Namestnik, who is cataloging the plants for an inventory. He was hired by Acres Land Trust, a nonprofit that acquires land for the purpose of protecting it forever. The organization acquired the land in March 2014.

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Credit Lisa Ryan, WBOI News
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Scott Namestnik inventories plants from all over the 107-acre nature preserve, including on the muddy shores of the bog.

“It’s great that Acres was able to preserve a place like this,” Namestnik said. “But even from a botanical standpoint, I don’t think anybody truly knew everything that was out here.”

The land was bought through private donations and grants from the Bicentennial Nature Trust, Indiana Heritage trust and the Department of Natural Resources. Namestnik says if Acres didn’t preserve the land, no one would even know those plants were out there. The cypress-knee sedge is so rare, Namestnik says only about 20 people have seen it in Indiana.

“This habitat is so unique that most of Indiana will never see this type of habitat,” he said.

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Credit Lisa Ryan, WBOI News
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Scott Namestnik leads the way with a device that monitors his location.

The off-trail hike was difficult. It was raining, and the mud smelled like rotting eggs. We climbed over trees and through thorny bushes, trying to stay away from a plant called poison sumac.

Lettie Haver is the Outreach Manager for ACRES Land Trust. She says she enjoys being in undisturbed parts of nature, like the Spring Lake Woods and Bog.

“I really like being off trail,” Haver said. “There’s something in your imagination that really calls you to be out here like this.”

The land also protects part of the Lake Everett shoreline, Fort Wayne’s only natural lake.

While the entire property is not open to the public, the trail allows visitors to get a glimpse of different habitats hard to find anywhere else.

ACRES Land Trust has properties in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. Their goal is to acquire 7,500 acres by 2017. 

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