Thirty-five acres of Shelby County agricultural land came under protection this year, right next to the venerated old growth forest of Meltzer Woods. The Land Trust purchased the property from the Spalding family, descendants of the forest’s original champion, Brady Meltzer. The land had been in the family since 1857.
The plan for the addition to Meltzer Woods? Return it to forest.
Michael Spalding, a forester with the DNR and great-grandson of Brady, was the one to plant the seed of the idea of working with CILTI to protect the land in perpetuity. “It started with Michael saying that would be such a nice legacy to leave for his grandparents,” recalls Marcia St. John, daughter of the late Lawrence and Martha (Meltzer) Spalding. “And everybody got excited about that.”
Marcia and her seven siblings grew up on the farmland with the adjoining forest as their playground. She recalls often going for walks in the woods with their Uncle Philip.
Philip Meltzer, who died this August at age 94, worked with the Land Trust to make the forest into a nature preserve in 2014. “That was one of his biggest things to do,” Marcia recalls, “was walk in the woods. He’d name all the trees.”
So turning the adjoining ag fields into habitat makes a fitting tribute to Philip, his sister Martha, and their forebears. Planted in oaks, hickories and other native trees, it will grow into a buffer for the old growth forest, extending habitat for native plants and wildlife.
Marcia says the careful way the land will be planted and stewarded appeals to the entire sibling group. “It’s going to be fabulous. We all want to go when they start planting the trees.”
Some 20,000 trees will be planted on the acreage as part of the Million Tree Initiative.