ACRES acquires Philip and Jean Ross Preserve

ACRES Land Trust recently acquired the Philip and Jean Ross Preserve, the sixth property permanently protected by the local land trust in Huntington.

To date, ACRES protects 7,094 acres in the tristate area with member and donor support, including 372 acres in Huntington, primarily along the Wabash River.

“Phil and I are conservationists,” said Jean Ross, of Huntington, sharing her motivations and those of her late husband, Phil, for permanently protecting through ACRES their 23 acres of Huntington County land on the Wabash River.

The Philip and Jean Ross Preserve overlooks the Wabash River from a 40-foot bank along 900 feet of river frontage. A mature upland and wetland forest grows there, separated by a ravine from a younger forest, a meadow and a unique Earth-berm home.

“With donor support, our pace of land acquisition in Huntington has gained momentum,” says Jason Kissel, executive director of ACRES. “It’s beneficial to keep adding to the total of protected lands in this Wabash River corridor. This place has incredible value that ACRES will preserve for future generations.”

Once ACRES acquires land for protection, the land trust will never sell or transfer the deed, guaranteeing its protection in perpetuity.

In 2017, ACRES, Indiana’s oldest and largest land trust, acquired the 107-acre Victory Noll Acres along the ancient bank of the Wabash River in partnership with the Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters. In 2015, the late Philip Smith donated a seven-acre addition to the nonprofit’s Tel-Hy preserve.

“We knew Tom and Jane Dustin very well,” says Ross of two of ACRES’ founders.

They met through the Izaak Walton League. Phil Ross was president of the Huntington chapter and the Dustins had helped with the Allen County chapter.

“They were two people I admired as great conservationists,” said Ross. “Phil and I were active environmentalists; the Dustins were gracious enough to teach and we learned. We were relentless. We fought the water treatment plant for clean water in Huntington. We spoke before legislators. It’s been quite a ride.”

The Rosses stumbled onto their property in the late 1980s, looking for a place to build after raising their family. Jean Ross recalls the work they put into building their home by hand, while she was a third-grade teacher in the Huntington County Community School Corporation.

“I would leave school, change into my jeans, grab what I was working on – hammer and nails, brush and paint, whatever, and get to work,” shares Ross.

“Phil and I felt we were stewards of our land,” Ross adds. “We never thought of it or used it as ours. We were there to take care of the land, to preserve it and to pass it on. That’s what we’re doing.”

ACRES is still raising funds to complete this project.