Stephanie Schuck
Stephanie Schuck, MS ’12, greets an old friend, a sugar maple tree, in Ginn Woods. (Photo courtesy of John Taylor)

Indiana’s second-largest protected old-growth forest officially became a state nature preserve thanks to Ball State University.

The Indiana Natural Resources Commission established the 161-acre Ginn Woods as a nature preserve after the Board of Trustees approved the proposal this Spring. Ball State will retain ownership, and the University’s Field Station and Environmental Education Center staff will continue maintaining the land.

“Dedicating this land as a state nature preserve aligns with our University’s strategic and master plans,” President Geoffrey S. Mearns said. “Ball State is committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability. We also believe in making a positive impact on our community.

“Taking this step ensures Ginn Woods will remain unchanged and available for decades to come for vital research and education, which will benefit both our local and statewide community.”

Research destination

For decades, students from our University and Burris Laboratory School have visited Ginn Woods for educational purposes. Biological research in the woods includes amphibian monitoring, tree mapping, migratory bird populations, and impacts of invasive species.

Most of the woods has remained in its pristine, historic condition since settlement by John and Isabella Ginn in 1830. It was obtained by the University through a bargain sale by Mary Baldwin McKinzie, a Ball State graduate and John and Isabella Ginn’s great-granddaughter, in 1971.

“Ginn Woods has been on our radar for 30 or 40 years,” said Ron Hellmich, ’88, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves. “It is really exciting to add it as part of the nature preserve system. It meant so much for me as a student, and it will continue to mean a lot for students and the nature preserve system in Indiana.”

The largest and highest quality woodland in East Central Indiana, Ginn Woods is one of six properties managed for native biodiversity by the University’s Field Station and Environmental Education Center. Collectively, those six lands occupy 425 acres in Delaware County. — Tim Obermiller