Van Eller

Van Eller: Green Space in a Growing Community

In 2006, Chauncy “Van” and Betty Eller worked with the Central Indiana Land Trust to help their land become the northern part of what was then known as the Wapihani Nature Preserve. In 2015, it was renamed Nonie Werbe Krauss Nature Preserve, after a longtime volunteer and supporter who served as a member of CILTI’s board of directors and advisory board for eight years. 

Van and Betty had watched large-scale commercial farming in the city become impossible, but they wanted their land to stay undeveloped and offer a nature spot and green space in the city. They knew their land was a place for wildlife and that it could help the community to experience the wonder of nature. 

Today, the Nonie Werbe Krauss Nature Preserve is a community asset. Students from the adjacent Riverside Middle School use the preserve as an outdoor classroom to learn about its natural features and history. They also use it as their cross-country course. Community members use the space for nature walks and can sight summer wildflowers, prairie plants, and oak savanna.

Along the river to the south, bottomland forest grows due to our restoration efforts in 2008, when we planted over 19,000 trees here. The raspy call of grasshopper sparrows and the hoarse “fitz-bew” of the willow flycatchers can be heard. The nature preserve offers a habitat of open woods near water, just as this declining bird prefers. 

Betty passed away shortly after the preserve’s creation, and Van followed her in July 2010. But before then, he gifted the last 40 acres of their land, known as Eller Farm, to CILTI. It lies across the street from the Nonie Werbe Krauss Nature Preserve. Though not open to the public, it adds more green space to an urbanizing area. 

Eller Farm’s varied topography includes rolling slopes and small bluffs, hosting thousands of pine and oak trees and a patch of bald cypress. The slopes are cut by a small stream that feeds into the White River.

Van and Betty Eller’s generous gifts of land offer space for people of all ages to experience the greatness of nature. CILTI is forever appreciative of their thoughtfulness in donating to the Land Trust.

Bridget Walls

Communications and Outreach Intern

Bridget is our first ever Communications and Outreach Intern. She is a graduate of Marian University, where she combined English, studio art, and environmental sciences in her degree studies. As treasurer for Just Earth, the university's environmental club, she helped plan events encouraging a responsible relationship between people, nature, and animals.