Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve
Most conservation stories start modestly. We draw inspiration and motivation from the ones that can grow into something as significant as the 1,500-acre Beanblossom Creek Conservation Area that Sycamore Land Trust protects, stewards, and strategically expands with new land acquisitions.
Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve began as a 42-acre parcel of land donated by Barbara Restle in 1993. Today, our footprint of protected land along Beanblossom Creek encompasses more than 1,500 acres. It also includes a 2.5-mile trail for hiking, bird-watching, and enjoying nature. Several shots in this video we created with Blueline in 2017 feature Beanblossom Bottoms.
This remarkable wetland preserve has become a beloved place for countless Hoosiers, thanks in great part to the boardwalk trail. Sycamore began construction of the trail in 2005 with funding from the Duke Energy Foundation and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, and the support of many volunteers. With frequent flooding, Beanblossom Bottoms would have been too tricky to hike for all but the most intrepid birders and naturalists for much of the year, so this beloved trail helped make a wonderful habitat accessible to the public.
In July 2018, after years of planning, we began the process of tearing out the old boardwalk trail, which had become slippery and deteriorating, to replace the most-used portions with plastic decking or new treated lumber. The chief financial supporters of this massive project are the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Loren Wood Builders, and the Duke Energy Foundation. Hear from some of Beanblossom Bottoms’ supporters throughout the decades.
Our Winter/Spring 2019 issue of The Twig is dedicated to the story of Beanblossom Bottoms, its history, and its future. Click here to read The Twig, or scroll through this page for photos, videos, quotes, and fascinating facts about one of Sycamore Land Trust’s primary conservation areas.
Conservation is a community effort, and the promise of forever requires renewed commitment. You can help us protect and care for land in the Beanblossom Creek Conservation Area by making a donation today. Thank you, and thanks to all of our supporters, for making this important work possible!
THE ORIGINAL BOARDWALK
– Board members, other volunteers, Sycamore’s two employees (Christian Freitag and Wendy Wertz), and SPEA grad student Ross Britain meet to start planning the boardwalk trail they had been envisioning for several years
– Funding from Duke Energy is secured
– Volunteers meet every Saturday to build the trail, including groups from IU’s School of Public & Environmental Affairs, church groups, Boy Scouts, and regular Sycamore volunteers
– The Laura Hare Charitable Trust and Oliver Winery provide funding to hire labor and buy materials for the more complicated elevated portion
– The trail is complete
– A hundred-year flood pulls up two thirds of the boardwalk and moves it about 20 feet off-course
– The Laura Hare Charitable Trust donates funding to repair the damaged portion and secure it more firmly to the soggy ground
These photos were provided by John Gallman, who was the board chair at the time the original boardwalk construction began and spearheaded much of the project. Click on a photo to see a larger version.
THROUGH THE YEARS
Rare, protected, and special species
– Bald eagles
– Kirtland’s snake (state endangered)
– Indiana bat (state endangered)
– Lizard’s tail
– White turtle-head
– Closed gentian
In all, Sycamore has completed 26 projects in the Beanblossom Creek conservation area, totaling 1,574 acres of land protected forever. A few key acquisitions include:
– Restle Natural Area: 43 acres, our first parcel of land in the area, donated by Barbara Restle in 1993
– Habitat for Herons: 95 acres, the first parcel we purchased, in 1995
– Trout: 200 acres purchased in 1997
– Shine-Efroymson Preserve complex: 613 acres, acquired from 2015-18
In addition to these named properties, other parcels have been named in honor of donors or their loved ones, including: the Powell Preserve, Fix-Stoelting Preserve, Kimberlee Preserve, and Grandchildren’s Woods. To learn about naming opportunities on land protected by Sycamore throughout southern Indiana, contact Ann Connors at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-336-5372 ext. 104.
Led by Chris Fox, Sycamore’s Land Stewardship Manager, and David Stewart, Loren Wood Builders’ Lead Carpenter, a crew of hired workers and volunteers began the tear-out in July 2018 and the rebuild in September. Sycamore’s Executive Director, John Lawrence, oversees the project’s progress. The complete rebuild is replacing 3,600 feet of old trail with new plastic decking (about a half-mile) or treated lumber (900 feet).
They are also building several new structures such as wheelchair turnarounds, and replaced old steps and benches for the observation decks. The project is an immense process: wading through deep and icy waters in the winter, fending off hoards of mosquitoes in the summer, crafting creative ways to engineer the curves and ramps, and much more. We all owe this work crew our deep gratitude for their tireless dedication!
The broad floodplain of Beanblossom Creek in Monroe County was Sycamore Land Trust’s first focus area for conservation, and it holds amazing potential for the future. After 25 years of acquisitions and stewardship, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors, we now preserve more than 1,500 acres in the Beanblossom Creek area of Monroe County plus another 260 acres along the creek in Brown County. That’s almost three square miles of critical habitat, protected forever.
In many ways, this conservation project is just beginning. In the next few years, Sycamore will begin to restore several hundred acres that are now open crop fields, turning them back into the important wetland habitat that they were one hundred or more years ago.
Over the coming years and decades, with your support, Sycamore can continue to protect more and more land along Beanblossom Creek. We can restore more new preserves to be like Beanblossom Bottoms, and begin to link them together. With time and support, we can create a corridor of critical habitat all the way from the White River in northwest Monroe County, through Beanblossom Bottoms and our other current preserves, all the way to Trevlac Bluffs in Brown County, and beyond.
This is an ambitious vision, but so was creating Beanblossom Bottoms 25 years ago. Together, we can keep building our Beanblossom Creek legacy for future generations.
Thank you for supporting this vision over the years! Truly, it’s amazing what we can do together.
– John Lawrence, Executive Director
(read the full version of John’s thoughts for the future of Beanblossom Bottoms in The Twig)
bobcat photo by Chip Methvin, 2017