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ACRES Prepares Lasting Celebration For Bicentennial

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Zach Bernard/WBOI News
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ACRES Land Trust is celebrating the Hoosier State’s 200th birthday with a project that they hope will impact the region for the next 200 years.

It’s a quiet and chilly Saturday morning at Blue Cast Springs in Woodburn, with roughly 20 ACRES Land Trust volunteers scattered across a 32-acre agriculture field.

They’re planting trees, in honor of Indiana’s bicentennial celebration. The goal for the organization is to plant more than 21,000 trees in this space as their way to honor the occasion. But why trees?

“A bicentennial is a short term; forever is long term. Even 200 years is significant, and so we’re planting trees today that have a chance to see the next bicentennial so they can be here 200 years from now.”

That’s Jason Kissel. He’s the executive director of ACRES Land Trust.

He’s also an expert on foresting. He says Indiana was once 86 percent forested, but as of 2016 that number has been cut down to 20 percent. That’s why Acres is committed to reforesting parts of the region.

“We’ve lost a lot of the natural cover that the state of Indiana used to do,” said Kissel. “So that’s what groups like Acres does; we find little pieces of nature that are already intact, back into a forest. So it’s important that we’re starting to re-establish some of that forest that we’ve lost the last 200 years.”

ACRES director of land management Casey Jones does a fair amount of the heavy lifting during the event. He knows the reforesting process as well as anyone.

“We gave them a handful of trees and a dibble bar; I explained how you pry the soil open, get the roots down in there, and then close the hole back with these kind of specialized shovels that act as a wedge and pry the soil apart,” Jones explained.

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Credit Zach Bernard/WBOI News
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Casey Jones teaches a young tree-planter the nuances of the trade.

ACRES volunteers will plant 200 trees, as an homage to the state’s bicentennial. A tractor will then cover the bulk of the 32-acre field and plant the rest of the project’s nearly 21,000 trees.

Jones says planting the trees with a tractor is a far more efficient process, but it was important to involve the community in this undertaking.

“We wanted to give some folks some ownership in the matter by letting them plant a lot of these trees themselves,” he said. “These nature preserves are just as much everybody else’s as they are ours.”

Jason Kissel agrees.

“What’s fun is when you go from an empty field like we have now, now we’ve got little sticks popping up,” said Kissel. “In two or three years, you’ll start to see that they are little trees. And then in ten years you’ll say, ‘Ah, I remember we helped plant that!’ And then in a hundred years, it’s a wonderful growth forest!”

David Brumm is involved with land management for ACRES. He says he was a member for a long time, but after his retirement chose to become a more active participant. He likes the idea of leaving his mark on the land.

“I was looking at that one back in the forest; 214-years-old,” said Brumm, referencing the oldest tree standing at Blue Cast Springs. “Try to imagine that: 1802, that tree back there was starting out. It’s seen all of this. Everything we’ve done here; the Indian tribes still owned this land. It’s been a long time and we’ve got a long time to go.”

Brumm says this project is bigger than simply leaving an impact on Northeast Indiana.

“Think of a balance worldwide,” he said. “We’re wiping out forests, we’re wiping out nature. We’re reducing, reducing, reducing the natural things that are there, and putting our mark on it, and that’s what we do; we build. So it’s nice to have a place where we put it back.”

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Credit Zach Bernard/WBOI News
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ACRES hopes this land will become a full growth forest in the coming years.

A tree grows roughly one to two feet each year, meaning the plot of land ACRES chose for its bicentennial project should be well-forested in the next 15 to 20 years. And 200 years from now, they hope most of these trees will still be there.

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