Judy Wells/Paulding County Progress
	Heavy coats, hats, scarves and gloves were the order of the day for hikers at the Flat Rock Creek Nature Preserve on Saturday.
Judy Wells/Paulding County Progress Heavy coats, hats, scarves and gloves were the order of the day for hikers at the Flat Rock Creek Nature Preserve on Saturday.
By JUDY WELLS

Feature Writer

PAULDING – The temperature on Saturday, Jan. 7 was 10°. The wind was howling at 25 mph and snow squalls popped up throughout the day. The wind chill factor was a few degrees below zero. But that didn’t stop nine outdoor enthusiasts from hiking at the Flat Rock Creek Nature Preserve on Ohio 500 west of Paulding.

The hike, hosted by ACRES Land Trust, was for anyone in the area who wanted to explore the preserve and learn more about the organization. According to Lettie Haver, ACRES outreach manager, “the preserve contains both upland and floodplain forest divided by the serpentine flow of Flat Rock Creek. The creek and mature forest attract abundant wildlife and provide great scenic vistas.”

She went on to say that “Flat Rock Creek is one of very few unaltered creeks remaining in the area. Its meandering course has been directed only by its own movement through the centuries.”

ACRES acquired the 50-acre preserve in 2008. The organization offers a variety of hikes and events throughout the region, all year long.

As the hikers walked along the snow-covered trails, they noticed various animal tracks. One man thought the canine tracks he spotted might have been made by a coyote. “Either that or somebody has been letting their dog run loose out here,” he said.

Tracks of squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and deer were also seen.

Carol Roberts, vice president of the board of directors of ACRES, led the hike and talked about the history of the area.

“Flat Rock Creek is a 57.2-mile-long tributary of the Auglaize River in northeastern Indiana and northwestern Ohio,” she said. “It drains a primarily rural farming area in the watershed of Lake Erie.”

She explained that the creek originates in a group of headwater streams along the border between Adams County, Indiana and Van Wert County in Ohio.

“The creek flows northwest from Ohio into eastern Allen County, Indiana, then turns northwest at Monroeville, Indiana and flows into Paulding County, past Payne and Paulding,” she said. “It joins the Auglaize from the west approximately 10 miles southwest of Defiance.”

Roberts pointed out that the nature preserve acts as a riparian buffer for Flat Rock Creek and is beneficial in helping shade and partially protect the stream from the impact of adjacent land uses.

“The buffer plays a key role in increasing water quality in associated streams, rivers and lakes, thus providing environmental benefits,” she said.

The buffer also helps to prevent sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and other pollutants from entering the water. Buffers are most effective at improving water quality when they include native grasses or a herbaceous filter strip along with deep-rooted trees and shrubs along the stream.

ACRES, a member-based non-profit organization, protects approximately 6,050 acres of land in Ohio and Indiana. Founded in 1960 and based in Huntertown, it is Indiana’s oldest and largest local land trust.

More than 70 miles of trails can be explored in ACRES nature preserves, for free, dawn to dusk. They are places for hiking, walking, photography, birding, field trips, and the like. Annual membership dues start at $25 per year.

To learn more about ACRES or becoming a member, contact them at ACRES Land Trust, 1802 Chapman Road, P.O. Box 665, Huntertown, IN 46748-0665 or visit their website at acreslandtrust.org.