How a Designated Gift Changed Horse Trails at Salamonie Lake

Maureen Fehrs is a veterinarian from northern Indiana. She has organized endurance and competitive rides on Salamonie Lake’s horse trails for the past eight years. Several years ago, she was the ride manager for the Salamonie Stomp, where she was introduced to Ronnie Hileman. He had just started as manager for the 12,554-acre property in Wabash and Huntington counties that includes the lake, 40 ponds, marshes and wetlands, and several miles of horse and hiking trails.

Fehrs and Hileman struck up a conversation and began to brainstorm methods to improve the trail ride.

“Ronnie mentioned that while he had some good volunteer help for trails, they needed more materials,” Fehrs said. “We discussed having the materials donated versus monetary gifts—I was concerned that donating to Salamonie would end up with the money going into a general fund.

“Ronnie mentioned the Foundation and being able to earmark funds for a specific use, and that’s how it started.”

Hileman encouraged Fehrs to make her contribution as a designated gift to the INRF. By giving a designated gift, she would ensure that her generosity went directly toward the horse trails that she and many others hold near and dear to their hearts. The impact her contributions have made over the past several years are obvious to Hileman, who can see a marked difference in the trails’ condition.

“We have been able to purchase stone, tile and rental equipment,” he said. “We have repaired erosion, filled in low spots and cut back brush.

“This is all thanks to the designated funds managed by the INRF.”

Volunteers fill in a horse trail with stone at Salamonie Lake.

The designated funds are accessible whenever maintenance to the trails is needed. Their availability has improved safety for both riders and their horses. Fehrs and Hileman continue to partner and create safe, enjoyable outdoor recreational opportunities for thousands of visitors each year. Their partnership is mutually beneficial.

“Ronnie has been fantastic to deal with and always makes our group feel welcome,” Fehrs said. “Our local distance trail group (OAATS – Ohio Arabian and All Breed Trail Society) loves the campground and staff at Salamonie and has held its club ride there for the last several years, so we now have two rides there a year.”

Hileman says the rides Fehrs organizes significantly benefit the property.

“When we have rides, it fills up the horse campground, which creates extra revenue,” he said. “People come from out of state, which introduces new users that may come back.”

A rider and her dog embark on a horse trail at Salamonie Lake.

Both new and seasoned visitors to Salamonie Lake contribute to the property with each visit. They purchase daily horse tags and campsites, and their chances of returning are increased due to the good condition of the trails.

“The ability to earmark funds through the INRF has made me much more willing to donate to the park,” Fehrs said. “Certainly, it’s self-serving since I love to trail ride and appreciate having a safe trail system to ride on, but so do many other trail riders.

“There aren’t many horse trails in the northern part of the state, and my husband and I enjoy being a small part of preserving the ones we have.”

Fehrs was able to turn her passion into a legacy that will benefit many riders at Salamonie Lake for years to come. Giving a designated gift is a great option for those who want to reserve their contribution for a specific purpose. She gives directly toward the horse trails at Salamonie. You may wish to give directly to the Discover the Outdoors field trip grant program, the Indiana Tree Project, the Give Adventure grant, or many more conservation, education and outdoor recreation programs the INRF supports.

For more information on how you can support public lands through the INRF, email Jody Kress at jkress@dnr.IN.gov.