Shirley Heinze Land Trust has acquired 38 acres of land along the Little Calumet River in Chesterton. The property, which boasts a half-mile frontage on the north bank of the river, includes old oxbow wetlands, extensive floodplain, and an upland forest community. It will be managed as a nature preserve and a resource for outdoor recreation.
A trust, jointly managed by Chicagoans David N. Rosner, Harvey Walner, and Jack Rosner, donated the land to Shirley Heinze in December 2012. The donors acquired the property in 1968 and developed the Deer Run apartment complex on a portion of it. The family sold the apartment building in 1994.
The owners decided to donate to Shirley Heinze because of its reputation as a respected land conservation organization in Porter County, according to a family spokesperson. “It seemed like a perfect fit to donate this park-like property along the river to this land trust,” she says.
The property will be named the Keith Richard Walner Nature Preserve in memory of the late son of Harvey and Barbara Walner. Keith Walner was a California attorney who died in 2012.
The parcel’s isolated location between the river and Interstate 94 has provided it with a degree of protection from human encroachment and invasive plant species. “The land is remarkably clean, and it has a nice mix of natural communities,” notes stewardship director Paul Quinlan. “We are anxious to explore it further during the growing season to get a better idea of its diversity.”
The acquisition also fits in with continuing efforts by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), local non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies to preserve the east arm of the Little Calumet and promote the river’s potential for outdoor recreation. Shirley Heinze owns another 42 acres of riparian habitat two miles upstream near Brummitt Road.
“The preservation of this land is terrific news,” says Dan Plath, President of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association. “We’re delighted that the property is in the reliable hands of Shirley Heinze. It greatly adds to resources available to paddlers and other outdoor enthusiasts.”
Mitch Barloga, NIRPC’s non-motorized transportation and greenways planner, is also enthusiastic about the acquisition. “A two-mile section of the Little Calumet River has recently opened for paddlers in Porter. The new Shirley Heinze property will allow for further expansion of this route east into Chesterton,” he says.
“The donation of this great piece of land came as a pleasant surprise at the end of last year,” says SHLT Executive Director Kris Krouse. “We’re extremely grateful to the Rosner and Walner Families for entrusting the care of this property to us. It’s a wonderful addition to the protected natural areas of Northwest Indiana and a great gift to the greater community.”
Shirley Heinze Land Trust has been protecting natural land in the southern Lake Michigan watershed since 1981. It manages and provides permanent protection to more than1,300 acres. Five of its properties – Cressmoor Prairie, Seidner Dune & Swale, John Merle Coulter Preserve, Barker Woods, and Ambler Flatwoods – have been dedicated to the people of Indiana as state nature preserves. Included in the Heinze Trust’s holdings are examples of the entire spectrum of natural communities in this area: tallgrass prairie, high dune, oak savanna, boreal flatwoods, dune-and-swale, woodlands, marshes, swamps, ponds, fens, and riparian habitat. The Heinze Trust has also made contributions toward the purchase of natural areas owned by other entities, including the Indiana DNR, The Nature Conservancy, LaPorte County Parks, Lake County Parks, and the Portage Parks Department.
For more information on the work and programs of Shirley Heinze Land Trust, visit www.heinzetrust.org.