When Betty (Schulze) Bruno was a young girl growing up on the farmland that became Schulze Industrial Park in Washington, she remembers people coming by the farm every once in a while to ask her father, Henry, about some of the trees on their property. Would he be interested in selling any of them?
Even before asking, the prospective buyers had already been out looking at whatever specific tree they were after, said Bruno. They offered a good price, around $500, she thought. But her father’s answer was always no.
Not because the family didn’t need the money, said Bruno. This was during tough economic times.
“He was tempted, but he just couldn’t force himself to give up those trees,” said Bruno, who now lives in St. Louis County with her husband Carl.
When Henry Schulze passed away, Betty and her sister Irene, both graduates of St. Francis Borgia High School, wanted to make sure the trees their father loved would never be cut down for timber, so in 2000 they donated a 22-acre piece of land to the Ozark Regional Land Trust (ORLT) to create the Schulze Nature Preserve.
ORLT is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping landowners protect land in perpetuity through various methods that include conservation easements, nature preserves and partnerships with conservation organizations.
ORLT has dozens of projects protecting more than 27,000 acres of land throughout the Ozark region.
Earlier this month, the Schulze Nature Preserve unveiled two newly completed trails on the property, located at 370 M.E. Frick Drive in Washington.
A ribbon-cutting ceremoy was held on site Saturday, May 5, with the Schulze sisters present, along with the wife and family of the late Steve Tomey, who had been instrumental in getting the trails built, members of the Missouri Master Naturalists Club and construction crew volunteers who dedicated more than 600 hours toward preparation of the trails.
The 22 acres had been virtually untouched since they were donated in 2000, said Nic Rogers, ORLT stewardship specialist.
“We had done the basics of controlling for invasive species, but otherwise kept it as green space,” he said.
Enter Steve Tomey, who was a teacher at Lindbergh High School in St. Louis. He was looking for a project for the LHS Environmental Club students, and on the ORLT website discovered the Schulze Nature Preserve.
“He drove to our office in Columbia asking if he could go visit it, thought it would be a great project,” said Rogers. “He got the ball rolling, got the board and staff more engaged.”
With funding provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation grants, volunteers got to work on the property, making it more hiker-friendly. Tomey brought LHS Environmental Club students out to the site three or four times to help build the trails and volunteer.
“They cleared brush, spread mulch to build the trails, did some resurfacing or cutting the trail into the dirt, basically a lot of the manual labor,” said Rogers, noting there were around 60 to 75 students total. “They spread a lot of mulch.”
What You’ll See
The preserve offers two trail loops — one, marked yellow, is a quarter-mile long. It’s located closer to the parking lot and is more accessible, said Rogers.
The other trail loop, marked in red, is longer at 1.1 miles and more rugged.
“It’s very typical of this area,” said Rogers. “Nothing very steep, but it is more for hiking. It’s not an urban trail, by any means.”
There are a few stream crossings where volunteers built stairs and placed walking stones for people to get across. Eventually mile markers will be added as well.
Rogers said the hope is that people who work in the industrial park may be able to spend some of their lunch break walking or jogging the trail, if they want to. There also are plans to add educational signage.
“We will have signs on the kiosk up front about the ecology of the area and the history of that property, how it used to be a family farm,” said Rogers. “And along the trails will be signs . . . near some of the specimen trees.”
Century-Old Trees, Diversity of Wildflowers
There are at least seven or eight trees on the Schulze Nature Preserve that are worthy of some special recognition, said Rogers.
“There are some white oaks on the property that are over 100 years old,” he said. “There are a few bigger walnut trees in the bottom, too.
“There is a good mix of a lot of trees you find in the Missouri River hills — a lot of paw paws, hackberries, sassafras, some sycamores.”
“The tree experts are always kind of surprised at the variety of trees there,” Schulze said.
In addition to the specimen trees, visitors to the preserve will want to pay attention to the diversity of wildflowers.
“There is a great diversity of native forest wildflowers,” said Rogers, although they are not all in bloom at the same time.
This includes wild orchids, a carpet of wild geraniums, wild sweet William, green dragon, gooseberry, paw paws, Solomon’s seal, spice bush, wake robin and wild ferns, like the rattlesnake fern.
Mike Smith, Washington, who was one of the volunteers who worked on the preserve, said he finds the botanical diversity of the preserve to be one of its best features.
“Anyone interested in botany and birds, this is a great place, because there is a lot of botanical diversity here,” said Smith.
People really wanting to see all the preserve has to offer may even want to hike the trail every couple of weeks to see what is blooming.
Rogers noted that hikers also may be surprised by how secluded the preserve feels, especially on the red trail.
“Once you are about a half-mile in and you drop down into the main drainage of the property, you would have no idea that you are a quarter-mile from Westlink Drive and another quarter-mile from Frick’s,” he said. “You are totally surrounded by woods. You can’t see any buildings or anything.”
Depending on the time of day, you may still hear some sounds from the industrial park or Westlink Drive, “but it is pretty amazing how peaceful it is, especially this time of year when all the leaves are on the trees,” said Rogers.
Be Aware . . .
Hikers should be aware of the hazards they may encounter on the trail. A sign at the trailhead spells it out clearly:
Poisonous and stinging plants, such as stinging nettle and poison ivy. Dangerous wildlife, including wasps, hornets, venomous snakes and ticks all have the potential to be present at the preserve.
The terrain includes uneven footing, some steep slopes and downed trees. And portions of the trail may be overgrown at times, but the trail is well marked with with red or yellow paint on trees along the way.
“Use of the trails is discouraged when conditions are exceptionally wet,” the sign reads.
The Schulze Farm
The farmhouse and barn that were part of the Schulze family farm are still standing at this time, although Schulze said she expects they will be torn down at some point.
“The house was a two-story log cabin,” said Schulze. “It looks like a frame house. The boards used as siding on the old part are made of walnut wood, which people can’t believe, because it’s such exotic wood to use as a farmhouse covering.”
The Henry Schulze farm was 174 acres, and her father raised livestock and crops. At one point he even had dairy cows and raised turkeys, said Schulze.
When her father was a boy, he grew up on the farm next door.
Schulze said she and her sister were happy to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony May 5. Although they live in St. Louis County, they like to come out to the property to walk the trail when they can.
“We are pretty happy that the whole thing is inside the city limits,” she said.
Welcome Volunteers to Help More
Even though the trails are open, ORLT is still in need of volunteers to help with maintenance of the preserve, things like helping to control invasive species and hanging signs.
“Already about 600 volunteer hours have gone into the preserve, mainly from master naturalists and local community volunteers, but the goal is to get Scout troops, youth groups, schools . . . groups who want to do service projects.”
Eventually, plans are to hold educational workshops at the preserve.
If You Go . . .
To get to the Schulze Nature Preserve, take Bluff Road to M.E. Frick Drive (Frick’s Quality Meats plant) and turn right.
Turn into the Frick’s parking lot and go straight ahead toward the gravel lot, where there are about 10 parking spots for hikers.
The trailhead is located directly behind the parking spaces.
The preserve is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.