ACRES adds Huntington preserve

April 16, 2019

More land along the Wabash River in Huntington County is now protected through ACRES Land Trust, the nonprofit announced Monday.

Acquisition of the 23-acre Philip and Jean Ross Preserve brings the total area protected in Huntington to 372 acres, ACRES said.

The organization protects 7,094 acres of natural places and working land on more than 100 properties in the tristate area.

ACRES will never sell or transfer the deeds of properties it acquires, protecting natural areas from commercial or residential development.

“With donor support, our pace of land acquisition in Huntington has gained momentum,” Executive Director Jason Kissel said in a statement. “It’s beneficial to keep adding to the total of protected lands in this Wabash River corridor. This place has incredible value that ACRES will preserve for future generations.”

Jean Ross partially donated the land, which is closed to the public, ACRES spokeswoman Lettie Haver said by email.

Ross described herself and her late husband as conservationists.

“Phil and I felt we were stewards of our land,” she said in a statement. “We never thought of it or used it as ours. We were there to take care of the land, to preserve it and to pass it on. That’s what we’re doing.”

The preserve overlooks the river from a 40-foot bank along 900 feet of river frontage. It features a mature upland and wetland forest separated by a ravine from a younger forest, a meadow and the couple’s earth-berm home, the land trust said.

Earth-berm homes are built partly into the ground, typically for energy efficiency, Haver said. She noted that was the case with the Rosses, who built the house after the 1970s energy crisis.

“I would leave school, change into my jeans, grab what I was working on : hammer and nails, brush and paint, whatever : and get to work,” said Ross, who taught third grade at Huntington County Community Schools.

A caretaker will live in the home, Haver said.

ACRES said it is raising funds to complete this project, but details were not released.

“ACRES does not typically publicly disclose fundraising goals on specific projects where families have donated or partially donated land,” Haver said. “We choose discretion in our donors’ interest.”