Back to Nature

Oak Heritage Conservancy seeks to connect the public with nature

Their hope is to help others enjoy,
appreciate the outdoors

HANOVER, Ind. (April 2016) – Liz Brownlee is working hard on her goal to let area residents know that there are hundreds of acres of protected wild lands available for public enjoyment.
Brownlee executive director of the Oak Heritage Conservancy, housed at Hanover College, and is developing partnerships and hosting events as ways to accomplish her vision. The organization was formed in 2002, in cooperation with Historic Hoosier Hills Resource, Conservation & Development.

Upcoming Oak Heritage Conservancy Events

• April 16, 10 a.m. – noon: Kite Building. Building in morning, flying in afternoon. Clifty Falls State Park, Madison, Ind.
• April 23, 10 a.m.: Trail Work & Wildflower Walk. Work and play at Oak Heritage Conservancy’s Webster Woods Natural Area, west of Hanover, Ind. Call (317) 258-5217 for directions.
• April 22, 8 a.m.: Bird Tour. Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, Madison, Ind. RSVP to refuge office at (812) 273-0783.
• May 7, 8  a.m. - noon.: Native Tree Give Away. Stop by Madison Farmer’s Market for a free native tree or shrub. Broadway Street, Madison, Ind.
• May TBD: Wildflower Walk. Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge. Call refuge office for details: (812) 273-0783.
• June 10-12: Tales of Scales. Activities about reptiles all weekend. Clifty Falls State Park, Madison, Ind.
• June 21, 2 p.m.: Outside Story Time. Meet at the Jefferson County Public Library, 420 W. Main St., Madison, and walk to nearby park for stories about nature, in nature.

The organization is a nonprofit group that protects land in Jefferson, Jennings, Switzerland, Ohio, Dearborn, Ripley, Washington, Clark, Scott and Decatur Counties. Oak Heritage Conservancy owns properties such as Webster Woods natural area near Hanover but also helps promote properties owned by other organizations. These include the Jefferson County Parks Krueger Lake area right inside the main gate of the old Jefferson Proving Grounds at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge on U.S. Hwy. 421.
Members of conservancy believe that acquiring and protecting forests, farms, meadows, wetlands and other green space is important for the quality of life in southeast Indiana.
“I believe the natural world is very important, and if you can get people to go enjoy the outdoors, they will develop a passion for nature,” said Brownlee. “That passion can develop into caring for the natural world as they become a steward of nature. That stewardship can be for a backyard, a farm or anywhere in between.”
Brownlee grew up in southeastern Indiana and used to think a person had to leave Indiana to find really special parts of nature like beautiful waterfalls or national parks.
“It is true we don’t have mountains, ocean beaches or national parks, but anyone willing to look can find parts of Indiana that are beautiful. There are trees, waterfalls and beautiful river valleys. I love to paddle on Graham Creek because the outcroppings are a little slice of heaven.”
Hosting events and developing partnerships go hand in hand toward the development of the goals Brownlee has set for herself and Oak Heritage.

Photo courtesy of Liz Brownlee

Oak Heritage Conservancy board member Paul Carmony stands beside one of 9,200 trees the Conservancy has planted in the last three years. They will be giving away trees on May 7 at the Madison Farmers Market.

“The whole reason we host events is that we are trying to get the word out to the public that southern Indiana and Jefferson County are beautiful natural areas,” Brownlee added.
“There are good community assets for  people to enjoy. We are also trying to build collaboration with the groups that help us host the events, such as the Jefferson County Parks Board.
“Jefferson County Parks would like the public to know that there is wildlife land available for their use,” said Parks Board Member Nick Ellis. “Liz and Oak Heritage have done a great job of helping promote the 250-acre area at Krueger Lake. There are picnic tables and a 15-acre lake there to enjoy.”
“This partnership could be a long term,” said Brownlee. “We could work “We could work together on future projects like land conservation.”
The Oak Heritage Conservancy events are family oriented and held throughout spring and summer. The events include geology workshops, building state of the art bird houses, working on trails, wild flower walks and reptile weekends.
On April 16, the conservancy is playing host to a kite building workshop at Clifty Falls State Park that will teach families to build a kite in the morning then fly the kite in the afternoon.
On May 7, from 8 a.m. to noon, the conservancy will play host to its annual native tree giveaway at the Madison Farmer’s Market at Broadway Fountain.
Some of the funding for Oak Heritage Conservancy comes from a grant from The Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County, Indiana.
“Donations help us get people to build capacity,” said Brownlee. “Several people in the country are trying to connect people to the natural world and doing a good job of it. We can do a better job of serving the community if we are working together, and events are an excuse to start working together and build up trust. I am excited about the event series because it gives people an excuse to come outside and see some of the areas in Jefferson County that they have not yet explored.”
Oak Heritage Conservancy offers membership to people who want to help accomplish the organization’s mission to preserve, protect, and conserve land and water resources that have special natural, agricultural, scenic or cultural significance.
“Our natural areas were disappearing, and we are trying to preserve a few of the best ones so people could see what the United States looked like prior to when the white man came,” said Oak Heritage Board Member Paul Carmony. “Getting out with nature and seeing wildflowers helps people see where we are going. Liz has a lot of energy and a lot of great ideas. She knows how to communicate with the people who own the land and the public we want as visitors. We rely mostly on donations of land, but we hope to acquire land by purchase as money comes available.”

• For more information about joining or enjoying the Oak Heritage Conservancy, call Liz Brownlee at  (317) 258-5217 or visit: www.OakHeritageConservancy.org.

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