Vecny Woods

Bringing a new trail to life

Laying the ground

Before Indian Creek Nature Center can build a trail – allowing visitors to enjoy the wonders of nature – land must first be entrusted to us. There are naturally legal and financial factors involved in the transfer of property, but that key factor that brings land under the Nature Center’s care is our reputation for preserving, restoring and stewarding healthy ecosystems.

This work is integral to our mission, as it allows us to create outdoor spaces, such as the recently opened Věčný Woodland Trail and David Novak Prairie, where people can connect with nature. The name Věčný, which means eternal in the Czech language, is well chosen since that’s how long we intend to protect this land.

Acquisition of the Věčný property began in 2008 with over 100 donors supporting the project with the goal of preserving natural habitat and providing 29 acres of land to wander through without any man made structures. This concept continued until 2019 when ICNC was approached to purchase 26.6 more acres, named Windy Acres, to grow this corner of preserved land by an owner who wanted to ensure the land and natural habitat they had come to love and value as a natural setting wouldn’t be developed. 130 new donors became supporters of this property – making the vision to preserve it for future generations a reality. The successful purchase of Windy Acres expanded the acquired property to the full 55-acre Věčný Woods under the Nature Center’s protection today. 

The vision for the Věčný property changed after the August 2020 Derecho. ICNC, like the surrounding community, lost over 60% of its forest canopy. However, unlike in a cultivated space where one may choose to replant tree for tree, ICNC could not replant a forest. Instead, we created a multi-year plan to recover and rebuild our trails which meant going into all of our wooded areas to clear debris and to ensure visitors would be safe. This typically means creating a “tree corridor” on a trail – 20 feet free of debris under foot and overhead. When the land team began to remove downed and damaged trees and invasive trees within the Vecny property, a plan began to form to turn the tree corridor into a trail.     

In 2021 the Nature Center had the right combination of financial support and staffing available to move from managing the land to restoring it. A few of the donors who made leading gifts to support land restoration at the Věčný property include the Charlie Rohde Family, Downtown CR Rotary, Heather & David Hayes, and the Steve Ovel Family. There are still opportunities for investment in the future development and maintenance of the Věčný Prairie and Trail Project.

Enough resources had arrived for the work on the ground to begin. 

Much work was done to prepare the land for a visitors, including trail mapping, clearing downed trees and other debris and removing invasive species.

Planting the seeds

By 2021, the abandoned farm field acquired in the original Věčný land purchase was a mess of invasive grasses and shrubs, and a handful of invasive trees. In order to prepare the field to be transformed into a restored prairie, volunteers and staff put hundreds of hours into cutting invasive shrubs, dropping trees, and piling and burning debris.

In September 2022 the land team assembled seeds from 181 native plant species and rented a seed driller to get them in the ground. Over a few days they were able to plant seeds over the 2.5 acres that will mature into a healthy, diverse prairie as early as 2025 or 2026.

The new prairie was dedicated as the David Novak Prairie, in honor of local environmentalist David Novak, on November 8, 2022.

With the prairie seeded, nature took over the work of growing the restored prairie. It was time for the humans to turn their attention to the new woodland trail.

After invasive species were removed from the old farm field, ICNC used a seed driller to plant native species in the restored David Novak Prairie.

Charting a New Path

Work on the 1.25 mile woodland trail, which was mapped in 2020, began to make serious progress in 2023 as more and more volunteer groups became involved in the project.

Clearing a trail on the hilly terrain through ground covered in thick brush in places is challenging – but many hands make light work. The trail really began to come to life in June, when the Nature Center hosted a trail crew from the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa (CCMI). The CCMI crew stayed here for a week chainsawing, brush cutting and hauling off debris. After the CCMI crew left, only a quarter mile of the trail remained to be cleared.

Other volunteer groups stepped in to finish the trail. Troop 9 Eagle Scout Brogan Ironside chose to complete his Eagle Scout project to clear one of the last portions of the trail. Several other small groups of volunteers, including the dedicated Wednesday Warriors, brought the Věčný Woodland Trail to completion in December.

The Věčný Woodland Trail is now open and available to hikers. The new trails are not merely additional trails in our system. They offer different experiences. The woodland trail follows rolling hills through towering trees with some inclines more challenging than any other Nature Center trails. The trail that loops around the budding prairie offers a rare opportunity to see a prairie in the stages before it becomes like the mature prairies the Nature Center restored years ago.

Both trails connect to each other at a nine-vehicle parking lot that will be built soon, allowing more access to these additions we plan to protect for eternity.

With the help of donors, volunteers and staff the 50+ acres is now ready for visitors!
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Introducing the new Věčný Woodland Trail
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2023 Volunteer Award Recipients

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