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(Photo contributed)

Shingles and tires were recently dumped at NICHES’ Shawnee Bottoms preserve in Fountain County.

NICHES properties are there for the public, but they need to be taken care of.

Gus Nyberg, executive director NICHES Land Trust, reminds people that NICHES Land Trust owns four parcels in Fountain County totaling around 850 acres. NICHES owns 13 properties, totaling more than 900 acres in Warren County.

“Our lands along with Cicott Park and Portland Arch are effectively the natural parks that are open to the public. These lands serve as a place to unwind, decompress, pursue birding, botanizing and engage with the natural world close to home for people,” he said.

He said the shut down of much of regular commerce due to COVID-19 has been hard on people, and has lead to a lot of new people finding out about NICHES Land Trust, “and the lands that we protect which are open to the public to enjoy from dawn to dusk throughout the year.

“More people on the trails, and foraging for morels are great, but we have seen two significant dumping episodes in the last six weeks.”

Recently, Nyberg said, Jarrett Smart of Smart Lawns, Landscaping and Hauling volunteered his time and equipment to come out to the preserve and clean up the parking area. “We are super thankful for Jarrett stepping up to help, but the broader message that we would like out there is that the lands are open, we need people helping to keep and eye on

them, and we need people to not treat them as dumping grounds as the staff and volunteers of the organization want to be focused on the care of native plant and animal communities, which involves a lot of invasive species management.

“We really don’t want to be needing to put extra effort into keeping access to trails safe and welcoming, as our plates are already full.”

“The other was in Tippecanoe County at our Peters Mill Landing preserve, which is an access point for paddlers along Wildcat Creek. And expect that with increased people and warming weather that we will begin to see some stress on the trails and parking lots as people are too often lazy with being responsible with their trash or actively seeking out of the way places to dump.”

The hope is people will change their ways in the way they interact with the lands and spend their time this summer.

“My hope is that attention of the preserves, will lead to both more people using the preserves appropriately, for the (potential) betterment of everyone’s mental and physical health (when used) but also let people know the lands are cared for by local people (staff, volunteers and board) i.e. your neighbors, which may dissuade people in abuse of practices.”

For a full list of properties protected by NICHES in its 13 county service area can be found at https://nicheslandtrust.org/properties.