Wesselman Woods expands by 90 acres

Wesselman Woods expands by 90 acres
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 10:36 AM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Wesselman Woods is now close to 50% bigger thanks to a partnership between the nature preserve, the city, and the University of Evansville.

Wesselman Woods is the largest urban old-growth forest in the United States, as well as a state nature preserve and a national natural landmark; it’s also growing. Today it expanded by more than 40%, meaning some of the surrounding area could look very different after a few short decades.

When you visit Wesselman Woods, you get a glimpse of what most of Indiana looked like hundreds of years ago.

“If you were to time travel back 400 years you would see Wesselman Woods,” said Wesselman Woods Executive Director Zach Garcia.

The area is a nature preserve, which people are working not only to maintain, but also to grow.

Local leaders met at Wesselman Woods for an announcement which they say has been decades in the making.

The University of Evansville sold 42 acres of land on Division Street, and the city of Evansville donated the 32 acres where the par-3 golf course used to stand as well as 16 acres inside the loop.

“It’s a heartwarming day to think that the actions that our community is taking today will really reap benefits for literally generations to come,” said Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke.

It comes out to 90 new acres of land for the nature preserve.

The expansion takes Wesselman Woods from 220 acres to 310.

Officials from the city as well as UE say they could have sold the land to developers for a greater profit, but they were eager to contribute to the area’s recreational and green space.

“We said we wanted to make sure what we’re doing is right for the city of Evansville,” said UE President Chris Pietruszkiewicz. “So yes, was it possible that the university could have increased its value by selling this to a private developer? Probably so.”

They say they plan to reforest the new space using seeds from the existing woods, a process which they say could last several decades.

“When we’re thinking about climate change and creating an ecological beacon here in Evansville, it’s this genetic diversity, these genetic markers that we need here for 2073,” said Garcia.

[Previous Story: Wesselman Woods buys property from UE]

As part of the announcement, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke proclaimed June 5, 2023 to be Rebirth of Wesselman Woods Day.