Phalen Leadership Academy Youth on the White River

Embracing Nature: A Recap of 2023

In the year 2023, our commitment to connecting people with nature led us to offer several outdoor activities. From volunteer days to guided hikes and special events, it was a year filled with exploration, education, and environmental stewardship.

Spring Cleanup and Conservation Efforts:

In early spring, volunteers gathered to pull garlic mustard and clean up the preserves. Meltzer Woods, Burnett Woods, White River Bluffs, and Oliver’s Woods all benefited from these dedicated efforts. As the year came to a close, we wrapped up with wintercreeper and honeysuckle removal at Oliver’s Woods and Meltzer Woods, ensuring the preservation of these natural havens.

Nature Outings:

Golden Hour

A new bird series took flight every Tuesday morning in May, led by expert Rob Ripma and featuring our president, Cliff Chapman. Together, we spotted a myriad of bird species at Oliver’s Woods and White River Bluffs, including American redstarts, spotted sandpiper, and least flycatcher.

The 15th annual Wildflower Walk, guided by Phillip Weldy at Burnett Woods in April, showcased the vibrant beauty of native spring blooms.

April also brought a special evening to appreciate our volunteers with food and drinks at Oliver’s Woods, a tradition we hope to continue in 2024.

May saw the planting of trees at the Spalding addition in Meltzer Woods, with the involvement of Meltzer family members.

Our Golden Hour series, spanning from May to September, explored topics from wildflower photography to bats, captivating audiences and selling out quickly.

Community Involvement and Partnerships:

We enjoyed meeting community members at events such as Zionsville Earth Day, Johnson County Garden Club, INPS Annual Conference, Rocky Ripple Festival, Indy Bugfest, and Washington Township-Avon.

Partnerships with organizations like Indiana Native Plant Society, Indiana Garden Club, Phalen Leadership Academy, Indy Parks, Friends of White River, Highland Country Club, RAFT, Groundworks Indy, Indiana Land Protection Alliance, and Indiana Wildlife Federation strengthened our collective impact.

Fall Wildlife Education and Milestone Celebrations:

Take Flight Wildlife

Take Flight! Wildlife Education shared their ambassador owls with a captivated audience at Oliver’s Woods. Meltzer Woods celebrated its 50th anniversary as a National Natural Landmark with a memorable hike led by Phillip Weldy.

Late in the year, we had a Black Friday hike at our newest preserve, Fern Station. Our president, Cliff Chapman led this hike.

December brought a hike at Oliver’s Woods to learn how to ID trees by their bark.

Aside from staff-led outings, participants in the Trek our Trails Challenge explored all six featured properties.

Looking Ahead:

As we reflect on the incredible experiences of 2023, we eagerly anticipate another year of outdoor fun and learning. Keep a close eye on our events page for upcoming outings, and sign up for our e-newsletter to be the first to get updates.

Let’s continue our journey of exploration and appreciation for the natural world. Cheers to the adventures that lie ahead!

Traci Willis

Outreach Manager

Traci has always loved nature, channeling her passion into creating habitat for bees and butterflies (and taking stunning photographs of them). She coordinates our outreach efforts.