Victory Noll sisters sell tract of land to ACRES for permanent preservation

Sister Ginger Downey, general secretary for Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters, points out toward the 106 acres of land behind the Victory Noll campus that will be preserved by ACRES Land Trust. The purchase will be finalized late this summer.
Sister Ginger Downey, general secretary for Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters, points out toward the 106 acres of land behind the Victory Noll campus that will be preserved by ACRES Land Trust. The purchase will be finalized late this summer.

Originally published June 16, 2016.

The sisters of Victory Noll, in keeping with their land ethic, have partnered with ACRES Land Trust to permanently preserve 106 acres of land on their property.

The land was originally enrolled in the Crop Reserve Program (CRP), a government subsidy program that takes active agricultural land and puts it in a nature preserve system. The land that Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters wishes to preserve was farmed until around 1990, and the CRP will protect it from development for only 20 years.

In selling the land to ACRES, Victory Noll will ensure that the land will never be developed, even if the Victory Noll campus were ever to disappear. ACRES Land Trust manages and protects 5,924 acres of land across Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

Sister Ginger Downey, general secretary for Our Lady of Victory Misionary Sisters and the sister spearheading the conservation effort, explains that the Victory Noll sisters’ land ethic, which values working to achieve a peaceful and sustainable environment, is their inspiration for wanting to preserve the natural land for future generations.

“I’ve been coming to Huntington the last 30 years,” she says, “and to see the amount of farmland and natural woods that is being developed is pretty amazing. So it’s good to have a piece of land that will be preserved.”

Jason Kissel, executive director of ACRES, says that the interest of his organization works well in sync with the land ethic of the Victory Noll sisters.

“We compared (the land ethic) to what ACRES’ mission is and what we do with our land — it was just a perfect match,” Kissel says. “And so, they were really thrilled to know that ACRES would be continuing part of their ministry that they had on their property.”

Downey and the sisters learned through ACRES that the plateau that their campus sits on was formed by the same melting glaciers that carved out the Great Lakes and directed the flow of the Wabash River that the campus overlooks.

Entrusting the land to ACRES will prevent it from ever being developed in the future, but with the property being so close to Memorial Park, the sisters are considering allowing the park’s nature trails to be expanded onto their land so hikers can enjoy it.

“We’re also in conversation with the city (of Huntington) about the possibility of connecting the trails through ACRES,” Downey says.
The Victory Noll campus, which was developed beginning in 1925, will still belong to the sisters. Downey says that the land behind the campus will not change much within the first four or five years of the ACRES purchase.

Downey says that during the summer, many residents already run and hike through the property. When ACRES purchases the land, people will still be able to venture on to it. But in the coming years, ACRES will eventually create a plan to expand nature trails to make the land more accessible to the public.

ACRES has plans to eventually connect the other properties it owns in the Huntington area, including Doerman Nature Preserve, Pehkokia Woods, Little River Landing and Tel-Hy Nature Preserve, with the Victory Noll property via nature trails to preserve one continuous forest.

“For us it’s nice in and of itself,” Kissel says. “It’s a big chunk of land within the city limits. When you pair it with everything else we’ve been doing in the area, it fits really well with our plans.”

The purchase has not been made official, but both parties are in verbal agreement, and the land will officially belong to ACRES in the late summer or early fall of 2016.