Check out the Starke Co. Forest for a walk with nature

posted Oct 6, 2015, 9:57 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library   [ updated Oct 6, 2015, 9:57 AM ]
Check out the Starke Co. Forest for a walk with nature
By M.J. Bendt

The Starke County Forest is one of several interesting, and historic, sites to visit in Starke County. Bruce Wakeland donated the 129-acre Forest to the County in 2011 in the form of a trust. Wakeland, who received his degree in forestry from Purdue University, oversees the area. Proceeds from the sale of timber go into a special County fund, and are used to maintain the Forest, which provides a location for forest and wetland education for the general public.

The property includes 5 miles of trails, giving access to 22 acres of ponds and marshes, 40 acres of native woodlands, 62 acres of tree plantings of different ages and 5 acres of open areas. Public access is provided from dawn to dusk daily for hiking, bird watching, jogging and cross country skiing. The entrance to the Forest is at 10625 E. Division Road, just north of Ind. 8, between C.R. 1025 E. and C.R. 1100 E., on the south side of Division Road. No vehicles or horses are allowed past the entrance on Division Road.

Historically, the area dates back to the mid-1800s, when two parcels of land were granted from the U.S. Government, the north 80 acres granted to John Marks, and the south 49 acres to Mary Ann Robbins. Most of the marshy area was drained and trees removed for use as farmland around 1900. Wakeland purchased the north acreage in 1985. The farmhouse and large barn were eventually removed, and the cropland was planted with trees starting in 1986.

Fourteen acres of the south part of the Forest were farmed until 1987, when Wakeland planted it to trees. The remaining 35 acres were purchased in 2000, and in 2001, the remaining Scotch pines from a Christmas tree field were removed to allow the oak that had regenerated naturally under the pine to grow. Portions of the area include a pond and a 13-acre area used to demonstrate timber productivity.

Wakeland explains the process of starting and managing a timber business, which is the fourth most important business in Indiana. He also provides forestry consulting services throughout the area. After he graduated from Purdue, he started working for Stanley Hensler at Hensler’s Nursery in Hamlet. 

Wakeland is proud of his accomplishments, “You have to have a passion for it,” he said of starting your own business. “There’s too much work and risk.” He added, “The Forest pays its own way by selling timber, and you still have the beauty of nature.”