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New Preserve Opens On Lake Monroe

Last updated on Wednesday, December 7, 2016

(BLOOMINGTON) - Sycamore Land Trust’s has opened their newest preserve the 48-acre Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve opened to visitors Monday.

An eight-vehicle parking lot is ready for hikers, bird watchers and others who want to walk through the hardwood forest.

Just north of the causeway on Lake Monroe, the preserve is a small portion of what was once Indiana University Alumni Association's Shawnee Bluffs camp, which encompassed 164 acres. The camp was sold in 2003 and was developed into residential sites. The new preserve is nestled among the residential properties on Rush Ridge Road off Ind. 446.

The Herald Times reports the trust acquired the property in 2015 with help from funds from three families, the Bicentennial Nature Trust, the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County and members of Sycamore Land Trust. Volunteers with the Hoosier Hikers Council built a trail of about a tenth of a mile that connects the parking lot area to an old road that travels along a ridge down to the point of a peninsula along the shore of Lake Monroe.

Although the land was acquired a year ago, getting it ready for the public to use takes time. The reasons include ensuring neighbors are comfortable with people traveling to and using the property, making sure the animals and plants that live on the land are healthy enough to sustain

Hikers on the new trail will be able to see Lake Monroe through the trees on both sides of the narrow strip of land.The trail is 1.1 miles each way, and there's 1.7 miles of lake frontage. The shoreline along the preserve is actually owned and protected by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The other way to access the property is by boat. The preserve is just north of Cutright State Recreation Area and not far from the Charles C. Deam Wilderness portion of the Hoosier National Forest. That's one of the reasons the land trust was interested in the property: It adds more protected land adjacent to public land for wildlife, including bald eagles and songbirds that have been spotted on the property.

The preserve will never be developed, which will help prevent erosion and sedimentation in the lake.

New signs already have been placed on the property to tell visitors to stay away from nearby residences and to also tell people where they can park -- there is no parking allowed along the street -- and that there is no trespassing allowed on private property. There is also no camping allowed on the preserve, and people can't stay there overnight.

Sycamore Land Trust's preserve is named for Amy Weingartner Branigin, who died in 2012 from complications for treatment of brain cancer. Her parents, Larry and Carol Weingartner, along with her former husband, John Branigin, and their son, Eric, contributed funds to help purchase the property. Amy's brother, Peter, also contributed toward the purchase of the property.

The Weingartners at first looked for land that had caves because Amy really enjoyed bats, and she and her father would go caving together. But there were no properties with caves that fit the land trust guidelines. Then, the property near Lake Monroe was available. After walking along the ridge near the lake, the family decided it was a good fit.

The Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve is at 7466 E. Rush Ridge Road off Ind. 446 just north of the Lake Monroe causeway. There is an eight-vehicle lot where people can park. There is no parking allowed along the street, and no overnight parking. The preserve is open from dawn until dusk.

From the parking lot, a woodchip path leads to the trailhead. The trail is 1.1 miles each way.

For more about this preserve and Sycamore Land Trust, go to sycamorelandtrust.org.

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