Until 2022, Putnam County was home to four nature preserves, including the 157-acre Fern Cliff Nature Preserve, a retired sandstone quarry from which the sand that created the first green-colored Coca-Cola bottles came. Dwarfing Fern Cliff, the 570-acre Fern Station Nature Preserve will become a fifth area of protected Putnam County land thanks to years of effort by the Central Indiana Land Trust.
In August, 2022, the Friends of the Park board hosted Central Indiana Land Trust Assistant Director Stacy Cachules and the Trust’s Land Protection Manager, Stephanie Paine Crossin, to learn about plans to create the Fern Station Nature Preserve. They explained the plan calls for five unrestricted acres, of the 570, to accommodate events, parking and other locally generated ideas. The duo said it is unusual to gain access to 570 acres at one time. The Trust normally protects land in 40- to 100-acre parcels; however, it has been talking with the owner of the Fern Station land for more than 15 years.
Fern Station is the Trust’s largest single land purchase in its more than 30-year history. It received a $3.1 million $3-to-$1 matching grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Benjamin Harrison Trust. The Nature Conservancy pledged part of the needed matching funds, and the Trust successfully tapped local, state and regional sources for the balance. Putnam Parks & Pathways, the City of Greencastle and others wrote letters of support for the Trust’s grant application, which helped the application’s score with the IDNR.
At the meeting, the Trust staffers distributed a map of its “Snake Creek Conservation Area,” noting where Fern Cliff Nature Preserve is and where Fern Station Nature Preserve will be. The goal is to purchase all Snake Creek Conservation Area land, in time, to protect it forever. It will own the Fern Station land as of June 1, 2023, and make it a “state dedicated nature preserve” to receive the maximum amount of protection.
The nearly 600 acres of high-quality upland forest is dominated by white oak, beech and hickory trees. The area is rich with woodland species, including Kentucky warbler, wood thrush, Acadian flycatcher and Northern parula. In addition, Fern Station is home to rarer species including cerulean, worm-eating and hooded warbler, broad-winged hawk, and Eastern box turtle. The lushly wooded ravines support a wide variety of ferns and bryophytes with a healthy understory. In addition to supporting important wildlife and plant species, this property also provides an exciting opportunity for outdoor recreation in Putnam County.
Trails will be developed by the Trust, in consultation with the IDNR. It is a requirement for the property to be open to the public; however, installation of trails requires a “scientific assessment and is a long process.” Likely, trail development will begin as “an initial loop and extend from there,” with the preserve open to the public in late 2023 or in 2024.