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Bender Mountain gift is largest ever for Western Wildlife Corridor

 rock stairs lead up a steep hillside
Tana Weingartner
Spring ephemerals and greenery dot the hillside at Bender Mountain Nature Preserve.

The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati have signed over 73 acres of the Bender Mountain Nature Preserve to the Western Wildlife Corridor. The nonprofit nature conservancy land trust says it's the largest single gift in the organization's 31-year history.

The gift means more than 130 acres are now in conservationat the preserve along Bender Road in Delhi. The Sisters of Charity parcel is located west of the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse property (and Mount St. Joseph University).

"We're thrilled," says Jeff Ginter, president of Western Wildlife Corridor, Inc. "This is an extraordinary gift."

Western Wildlife Corridor (WWC) has been managing the Sisters of Charity acreage, but this agreement ensures the property will remain undeveloped, says Sister Joanne Burrows.

"We've been lucky to have the land — to enjoy the land, to be responsible for its care and stewardship — and now we're just grateful that there's another group that we deeply respect to want to take care of this wonderful gift," she says.

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The Sisters considered several possible partners before deciding to gift the land to the WWC, according to Burrows. She notes religious congregations like hers are growing smaller and older, and the Sisters of Charity wanted to make sure the land was protected and available to people in perpetuity.

"We've talked about it for several decades and now seemed like the time to do it, and Western Wildlife was willing to be a partner," says Burrows. "We vetted a couple of partners — two others beside themselves — and decided they were the very best. They've been our neighbors and they love the property, so they (will) take care of it."

Woman and man sit at a table signing papers.
Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati
Sister Patricia Hayden, Sisters of Charity president, and Jeff Ginter, president of the Western Wildlife Corridor Board of Trustees, sign the official paperwork to transfer 73 acres of property from the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati to the Western Wildlife Corridor, Inc.

People who visit Bender Mountain have likely already hiked through parts of the Sisters of Charity property. With this ownership change, Ginter says the WWC will be able to do more in terms of maintaining the trails and clearing out invasive species like Amur honeysuckle and garlic mustard.

"In my view, the natural world is in peril," Ginter says, "so it's critically important that we protect those natural areas that we can."

Ginter says WWC received donated funds to hire professional crews to remove Amur honeysuckle along the Ridge Trail at Bender Mountain and at another of its properties, Kirby Nature Preserve. That's expected to begin later this year.

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The WWC also plans to update its trail maps to include the expanded preserve — previously it did not list the trails on the Sisters of Charity property. Those could be installed as early as August.

Ginter emphasizes how appreciated this gift of land is from the Sisters of Charity.

"What they're doing is amazing, as far as I'm concerned," he says. "We're going to do our absolute best to take care of that property and keep it the way God intended."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.