May 2021 This month, we are pleased to feature longtime Zionsville residents Jim and Nancy Carpenter on the cover. The Carpenters founded Wild Birds Unlimited in the early \u201980s and have lived in Zionsville since 1987, where they raised their two daughters. The Carpenters are avid nature conservation enthusiasts who share a passion for the great outdoors. When the land that is now the Carpenter Nature Preserve (formerly the Wolf Run Golf Club) was put on the market by its previous owner, Stan Burton\u2014who had plans to redevelop the property located at the southwest corner of U.S. 421 and State Road 32\u2014the Carpenters saw an incredible opportunity to purchase the 216 acres and rehabilitate it into a wildlife and nature preserve. Burton was denied a rezoning request by the Zionsville Town Council and Zionsville Plan Commission in 2018. He had proposed redeveloping the former 18-hole course into a neighborhood comprised of a maximum of 360 single-family homes and mixed-use buildings. The Carpenters had a different vision and legacy in mind for the property. On a recent visit to the property, we were in awe of how quickly nature had taken over the once meticulously manicured fairways and putting greens. The former club house and adjacent structure are locked and boarded up\u2014creating a hauntingly spectacular backdrop. It is a phenomenal sight; all of the native plant life and trees have reclaimed the land throughout the sprawling hills and creek beds, and there are scores of a variety of wildlife that have reestablished habitats throughout the Carpenters\u2019 nature preserve. While onsite, the Carpenters introduced us to John Schaust, chief naturalist at Wild Birds Unlimited and formerly the naturalist at Holliday Park in Indianapolis. Within three hours, Schaust identified and cataloged 58 different bird species throughout the property. Conservationists at Heart In the April issue of Zionsville Matters, we featured Nancy Carpenter in the \u201cMeet Your Neighbor\u201d article that discussed Nancy\u2019s previous work with the Zionsville Green Space Foundation and her current involvement with the establishment of the Zionsville Parks Foundation that is awaiting its official designation from the IRS. The Carpenters are the sponsors of Newfields\u2019 Spring Blooms and the brand-new 10-acre Wild Birds Unlimited Native Pollinator Meadow, also at Newfields in the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park that is currently being developed and will have free admission to the general public. \u201cEver since we got married in the early \u201980s, we\u2019ve been trying to preserve habitats,\u201d Jim shared. \u201cWe were involved with the Hoosier National Forest and Indiana Forest Alliance back in the \u201980s. We were also involved with the Amos Butler Audubon Society and with their Birdathon.\u201d Jim explained that they helped raise money and awareness for the society to purchase thousands of acres in Costa Rica. \u201cIn the early 2000s, we bought land down in Brown County near Story, Indiana\u2014about 48 acres\u2014that we donated to the Nature Conservancy and its contingent with Hoosier National Forest so they can manage through the forest bank, appropriately, for wildlife, songbirds and native plants.\u201d The Carpenters also own land in Colorado that is part of a cooperative conservation effort. \u201cWe\u2019re saving about 5,000 acres with a group of other landowners,\u201d Jim said. \u201cWe personally bought in 1,000 acres, and we are always looking for conservation buys. We had been looking in Indiana, but\u2014until this opportunity became available\u2014there wasn\u2019t anything that we thought would work for us.\u201d Nancy added, \u201cEspecially in Boone County\u2014there\u2019s not a lot here except along the stream corridor of Eagle Creek. So much of is flat and farmland. So, when we heard about this , we knew this would be such an amazing opportunity.\u201d Rehabilitating the Land The Carpenters shared that the ultimate dream would be to rehabilitate the land and create what does not currently exist in the way of pollinator gardens and prairie areas while expanding the forest and wetland areas throughout the property. And to eventually create an official park and possible nature center for the town of Zionsville and surrounding communities to enjoy. \u201cImagine being able to come out here and walk your dog or just yourself and take a stroll,\u201d Jim said. \u201cIn 20 years, this will be a really nice wetland and forested area that will make up for what was destroyed.\u201d Both husband and wife are working with the Town of Zionsville, Town Council and Zionsville Parks and Rec Department on the potential development of a future park and nature center concept, utilizing the existing structures if they are deemed structurally sound and salvageable. Nancy added, \u201cOnce we get the Town Council and Parks board out here, we would love to think of ways to bring different groups within the community to come out and experience this.\u201d The Carpenters emphasized that the success of their proposed nature preserve and potential park will heavily depend on the municipality\u2019s and the community-at-large\u2019s support of their efforts and advocacy. Meanwhile, they are moving forward with their rehabilitation efforts, utilizing their own personal resources and connections. \u201cOne of the things that we are going to do is create a couple of exciting habitats,\u201d Nancy enthused. \u201cWe have a company that\u2019s going to come in and create a pollinator area with native pollinator plants by the in what used to be a practice putting green. It will create beauty and excitement. So, when we bring people out, they can see the possibility of what some rehabbing and bringing in some native planets will do.\u201d Nancy continued, \u201cWe realize that the town is not ready to buy the property. They could not get the bond issues or funding, and we knew that if somebody didn\u2019t pick this up and at least hold it, it would get lost. And we\u2019re having so much fun with this. It\u2019s such a rich experience, and we\u2019re meeting wonderful people in the community, so what a great thing to be involved in, and we\u2019re loving it!\u201d As part of their personal and professional mission statement, Jim expressed, \u201cBringing people and nature together is our mission. I think it\u2019s become our DNA to restore and make a difference. You can easily make the decision to make a difference. Here, we might be creating that which never was here. And we are open to ideas that will work to bring people together with nature.\u201d Nancy concluded, \u201cMy parents and grandparents taught me, \u2018To whom much has been given, much is expected.\u2019 We\u2019ve been so fortunate\u2014why not spread that around? It\u2019s so important to leave that legacy and to leave the planet a little better than when you arrived if you can.\u201d As the Carpenter\u2019s nature preserve progresses and as their plans become more concrete, Zionsville Monthly will follow up and share with our readers and fellow residents the exciting news and developments as they arise.