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Family Gives Land for Preserve

Published: Friday, December 8, 2017

A 29-acre property just south of New Paris recently became ACRES Land Trust's first family-donated preserve in Elkhart County. It's the latest example of how ACRES partners with families to preserve and protect the land they've owned, tended and loved for generations.

The Caprarotta Family Natural Area and the 10-acre Eby Bog, gifted in 2011 from the Nature Conservancy of Indiana, are ACRES' two Elkhart County preserves.

Velma Caprarotta, born in 1924, grew up in the farmhouse across the road from the property. The land she and ACRES recently protected was purchased in 1925 by her late husband's family, who emigrated from Italy to Chicago with their son, Francis.

Caprarotta admits that as a child, she was more interested in the birds and other wildlife in the area than in young Frank, but the two married after World War II. They raised five sons while living in her childhood home. In 1959, to keep the family name on the Caprarotta property, they purchased it from her in-laws.

Velma Caprarotta has since moved from the area, but that same desire to permanently protect the land she loved led her and son Gary Caprarotta to seek a conservation organization. They were looking for a group that would not only hold the deed but also preserve the land in perpetuity.

That's where ACRES Land Trust came in. "I like what you do and that it's forever," Velma Caprarotta said.

The Caprarotta Family Natural Area features a developing wetland area and was donated to ACRES already enrolled in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Classified Forest and Wildlands program as well as a federal Natural Resources Conservation Service program. It is not open to the public.

A few ACRES staff members and a member of ACRES' board of directors recently met with Gary Caprarotta at the property.

"The family will always see the old farm as home, and although it's bittersweet to see the name change on the deed, they know ACRES and its members protecting the land is the best thing that could happen to it," said Heather Barth, director of fund development for ACRES.

"I love the land and wanted to keep the Caprarotta family name on it," Velma Caprarotta said, "and I feel great about protecting it with ACRES members."

A protected woodland, wetland, working land or other naturally significant area is one of the most valuable legacies a family or individual land owner can leave for future generations. As the largest and oldest land trust in the region, ACRES Land Trust has a pristine record for adherence to donor intent. Once ACRES protects a property, its name remains on the deed, forever guaranteeing its protection from development or transfer. ACRES can conserve as much land as the community supports through partnerships and gifts such as these.

In addition to Nature Preserves where the land is meant to remain relatively undisturbed, ACRES protects working lands. These protected lands are places where appropriate use is part of the plan from the beginning. These can be working lands of a variety—a sustainable tree farm, such as ACRES' Claxton Woods in DeKalb County, or agricultural lands. The land trust currently protects more than 500 acres in production.

Families have several options for protecting their land in partnership with ACRES—as an outright gift, bequest, reserved life estate, market-value purchase or, most frequently, as a discounted purchase. The value of the donation may qualify as a charitable contribution, though individual tax and financial circumstances vary. Furthermore, donors have the opportunity (including naming rights) to preserve and share their stories from the land. They may also retain rights allowing them to continue to live on the land or use it for personal recreation.

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