Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve is growing.
The nature preserve has purchased 42 acres from the University of Evansville, which had used the property at 3008 and 3204 E. Division St. as sporting fields. The city of Evansville owns Wesselman Woods’ property, while the nature preserve is managed by Wesselman Nature Society, a 501(c)(3) organization.
Wesselman Woods will receive $1 million from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Next Level Conservation Trust. The purchase price is $2 million, though Wesselman Woods executive director Zach Garcia shared in an interview with Evansville Living that the total value of the property is estimated to be north of $4.1 million. The rest of the funds used to buy the property came from an anonymous donor and Wesselman Woods.
Garcia says it has been a long journey to acquire the land, adding that the purchase helps protect the abutting woodlands at the nature preserve, some of which are more than 300 years old.
The additional transfer of the former Wesselman Par 3 Golf Course and a section in front of the nature center increases the total acreage of the forest to around 310 acres. Garcia says the nature preserve intends the area to serve as a gateway for wildlife to enter Wesselman Woods and increase biodiversity, create new habitats, and provide better water quality in the wooded area.
“We want to make sure we can have a variety of trees and wildlife on the property,” Garcia says. “We intend to reforest both properties with the genetic diversity of Wesselman Woods. As the largest urban old-growth forest in the United States, we have old trees with genetic markers that potentially can combat climate changes in the coming years.”
“This sale aligns with our commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, and we are honored to play a role in preserving and protecting this precious natural resource in our community for generations to come,” University of Evansville President Christopher Pietruszkiewicz says.