BONUS COVERAGE: Central Indiana Land Trust expands unique old-growth forest

By Jen Thomas

The Central Indiana Land Trust is expanding the 60-acre Meltzer Woods Nature Preserve near Shelbyville by buying an adjacent 35-acre agricultural field, where it will plant more than 20,000 trees.

The purchase price was approximately $260,000 and was made possible through the Land Trust’s Evergreen Fund for Nature and members of the Land Trust. A portion of funds provided came from American Electric Power, Indiana Michigan Power’s parent company, under a legal settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, eight states and 13 citizen groups.

Meltzer Woods, acquired by the Land Trust in 2014, is a 60-acre preserve and one of the last old-growth forests in Indiana – meaning it has trees older than 150 years and has been left undisturbed as a forest for more than a century. No living tree was ever cut or sold by the Meltzer family and the site is now a state-dedicated nature preserve, the highest protection available in Indiana.

In 1969, Purdue University ecologist Alton Lindsey recognized Meltzer Woods’ importance in his landmark book Natural Areas in Indiana and their Preservation. Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974 by the National Park Service, the property includes oak and hickory trees that are more than 300 years old. Within its boundaries are vernal pools that allow amphibians to breed in safety.

The 35-acre addition will create a buffer, further protecting this irreplaceable old-growth forest. CILTI will plant trees on the land, sequestering carbon while restoring ecosystem functions that allow wildlife and nature to thrive.

“By converting the agricultural land to forest, we’ll allow species in the old-growth ecosystem to expand their territory over time and magnify this venerable site,” said Cliff Chapman, the Land Trust’s executive director. 

Meltzer Woods opened to the public in 2016.

“Now more than ever, families are looking for outdoor activities, and visiting Meltzer Woods has become a frequent family activity for many Shelby County residents,” said Jennifer Jones, executive director of the Blue River Community Foundation.

Located at 1522 S. 600 East near Shelbyville, Meltzer Woods is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk. It includes a parking lot and loop trail. Visitors are asked to observe the posted rules, which include traveling only by foot, staying on the trail and carrying out all trash.

The Land Trust, headquartered in The Old Northside, preserves the best of Central Indiana’s natural areas, protecting plants and animals, so Hoosiers can experience the wonder of the state’s natural heritage. Since it was created in 1990, the Trust has protected more than 5,500 acres of land that meet science-based criteria for conservation value. For more information, go to

PHOTO ABOVE: Meltzer Woods, an old-growth forest, is be expanded by 35 acres, land to be planted with over 20,000 trees.