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Hoosier Prairie expands its borders

A trail marker points way through an oak savannSavanntrail loop Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve Griffith Ind. Friday March 22 2013.

A trail marker points the way through an oak savanna on the Savanna trail loop at the Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve in Griffith, Ind. Friday March 22, 2013. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing to consider adding 275 acres to the preserve. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 1, 2013 10:37AM



Tucked into an industrial slice of Lake County land, sandwiched around tank farms, the Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve is holding its own and soon will nearly double in size.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources announced last month that it’s purchased 275 acres, expanding the preserve, dedicated in 1978, to about 580 acres.

The additional tracts on the south and north contain wet and dry prairies, wetland and oak savannas and rare plants and animals.

There’s parking for hikers along Main Street in Griffith, just west of oil pipeline giant, Enbridge Energy. The prairie also includes tracts in Highland and Schererville.

State DNR spokesman Phil Bloom said a local public hearing on the revised master plan will be held in July that’s required by state law in order to expand the prairie or make changes to it.

Bloom said amending the master plan would allow modern techniques in management of the prairie habitat such as the planting of native prairie plants and the ability to convert former pasture into prairie and savanna habitats. In addition, several new parking lots could be added in the future, if needed.

Tom Post, an ecologist with the Division of Nature Preserves, said revising the old master plan, which dated back to the 1980s, will provide more flexibility for updates.

Hikers who venture onto Hoosier Prairie’s crushed limestone trail system can walk along a two-looped trail, nearly a mile long.

They’ll see wetlands, marshes, prairie and black oak savannas.

“The prairie hosts a large number of native plants,” said Post. About 500 plants have been catalogued and wildlife range from small shrews to raccoons, coyotes, whitetail deer and 125 bird species including sandhill cranes and swans.

Post said there are also hundreds of insects, including a number of unusual butterflies.

While Hoosier Prairie is owned by the state, the U.S. National Park Service also owns a parcel of land in the middle of the state prairie.

Post said the Park Service acquired the land several years ago as part of a joint effort to preserve as much of it as possible.



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