By Terri Gorney
Two unassuming sisters, Mildred and Garnette Foster, gave ACRES the magnificent Beechwood Preserve in 1964. This was the second nature preserve that ACRES had acquired through donation and the first one in Steuben County. This act of generosity assured us that the land would be saved in perpetuity for future generations to enjoy. The preserve was named for the blue beech trees on the property; other trees of note are yellow birch, red maple, and red elm.
That same year, Garnette Foster spent a day helping Marion and Art Eberhardt plant the pine trees that are on the east side of the Charles McClue Reserve, just a couple miles east of Beechwood. Marion documented this day of tree planting in a scrapbook that she kept. Art has fond memories of the two sisters and time spent with them.
Jerry Warfel remembers the sisters from the late 1970s when he first met them. He related that they were school teachers by profession who had a deep love of the natural world around them, especially Garnette. Mildred and Garnette both enjoyed Pokagon State Park and spent their summers around the park before moving to Steuben County after retiring. They were friends with Ben and Helen Swenson whose property called "Wing Haven" would later become a spectacular preserve owned by ACRES.
Founding ACRES' member and former president, Bob Weber, described Beechwood as "bewitching." This is a wonderful word for a preserve that has rolling hills carved by glaciers, a peat bog, a walking loop trail, woods, and wildflowers. Beechwood has some of the highest hills in northern Indiana. Bob writes about "drinking in the views from these hill tops." Jerry said that Mildred called the land "sky hill."
Beechwood's southern boundary connects to Pokagon State Park; on its north side is Little Otter Lake. In the spring and summer the blooms of marsh marigold, dogbane, Deptford pink, and yarrow will delight the observer. In the fall, the trees are a blaze of reds, yellows and oranges. At one time part of the preserve was a farm that contained apple orchards.
Many talented people have helped create the preserve that we enjoy today. In the beginning, Bob Weber, John Klotz and John Ellenwood were involved with designing the first trails and signs. In the 1980s, Fred Wooley and Sam Boggs began acting as volunteer land stewards.
In 2000, this preserve grew a little, thanks to the addition of Charles Foster's neighboring property.
Beechwood is a beautiful and fascinating place in any season. Memorial trees were planted to honor the two sisters: an oak for Mildred who died 7 Apr 1988 and a sugar maple for Garnette who died 19 Nov 1991. The debt that we owe to those who went before us is enormous, and the best way to honor them is to pay it forward.
Directions: From Fremont take SR 120 west 3.5 miles, crossing over I-69, to SR 127 and turn left (south). Travel 0.9 mile to the preserve on the right at Lane 150.
Beechwood is a 1964 gift of Garnette and Mildred Foster. The 73.11 acres holds a 1-1/2 mile loop trail. Trail extensions lead to the Manjeri and Foster properties were gifted later.
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