THREE OAKS — A group of volunteers worked to clear the trail through Chikaming Open Lands’ new Sugarwood Forest Preserve on Saturday, June 11.

COL Stewardship Coordinator Dan Engel said the 40.25-acre site includes a new parking lot that was in place on June 11 with a handicapped pad, drainage work and landscaping coming soon.

He said a five-acre field formerly used for agriculture located between the new parking lot and the preserve’s woodlands was slated to get planted with a prairie-seed mix on June 16.

“The other 35 acres is a mix of deciduous forest. There are two different sets of ravines that are tributaries for the Galien River, and those have floodplain swamps down in the bottomlands,” Engel said. “In the uplands there is some nice beech-maple forest in various stages of regeneration. Some of it is relatively new. And then there’s some old-growth way in the back.”

He added that the trail system being developed in the preserve will reach the old-growth area and provide “some really nice overlooks into the ravines.”

A group of 14 volunteers worked to clear the woodland portion of the trail June 11. In addition to exploring Sugarwood Forest, they also got to meet Chikaming Open Lands’ new Education and Outreach Coordinator, Grace Ball.

Ball, who most recently worked as the Northwest Indiana Program Coordinator for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Chicago, said she’s looking forward to being outside and working with the community.

Originally from Batavia, Ill., Ball worked as a naturalist at the Indiana Dunes Learning Center in Chesterton after college (the University of St. Francis on Joliet, Ill.) “and I fell in love with the area.”

Her first day at Chikaming Open Lands was Monday, June 6.

The Sugarwood Forest Preserve property, located adjacent to Warren Woods State Natural Area on the north side of Elm Valley Road, was purchased at a bargain price in 2021 from the Platz family, which has in the past tapped maple trees there to make syrup.

COL has stewardship days on the second Saturday of each month March through November from 10 a.m. to noon (the preserve and work change each month and can include invasive species removal, trail maintenance, native plantings, and more). For more, contact COL Stewardship Coordinator, Dan Engel, at

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