INDIANAPOLIS – State officials are on the hunt for a “significant” piece of land to turn into a new state park that could be opened in 2016.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources Commission Rob Carter said on Monday that the agency is seeking land to create a new state park. He wants to dedicate the park in 2016, the year the state turns 200 and the state park system turns 100 years old. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com
That’s the year the state will celebrate its bicentennial and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will celebrate the centennial of the state park system.
“It would really be nice to dedicate a new state park then,” said DNR Director Rob Carter. “That’s one of our goals – to try to find a significant area of land, a mass of land to acquire and do that.”
The agency is looking at land in east-central Indiana, but Carter declined to be specific about the number of options or their locations. But he said the goal with a new state park and other conservation efforts is to benefit those areas of the state that are currently underserved.
“There are still areas of the state that are we consider an untapped resource,” Carter said. “We’ve identified a few spots that we haven’t announced yet but we’re looking at so we might have something pretty soon.”
An announcement isn’t likely for another year or so, Carter said.
Indiana now has 34 state parks and reservoirs that include 2,000 buildings, 600 miles of trails, 631 hotel an lodge rooms, 75 marinas, 16 swimming pools, 15 beaches, nearly 8,400 campsites, more than 200 shelters, about 160 playgrounds and 149 cabins. The state has thousands of acres of fish and wildlife areas and nature preserves as well.
The 100th birthday of the Indiana State Park system will occur in 2016 – the same year the state commemorates its bicentennial.
Deron Molen of TheStatehouseFile.com has a report.
Carter told the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday that it’s “one of the best state parks” systems in the nation and that its inns and lodges are top in the nation in occupancy rates.
Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said lawmakers are looking for ways to help the DNR prepare for its centennial and the state’s bicentennial by funding more of its projects. He asked Carter to submit a list of priorities that he can use to compare to funding requests made by individual lawmakers.
“As we look toward 2016, we want these projects either to be up and running,” Brown said. “I need – and other members need – to know what are the projects out there unmet and unfinished.”
Already, the DNR is making other plans to meet the state milestones.
The Indiana Bicentennial Commission is working with the agency to spend $30 million to fund conservation and recreation projects. The money is used to match local funding. About 40 projects have been approved and more are expected.
The Outdoor Indiana magazine – produced by the DNR – is running a series of articles about state parks and reservoirs. And the DNR is collecting family photos from Hoosiers that were taken in state parks.
Carter said the agency is also “working on populating our calendar” with activities for 2016.
Indiana’s state park system was the brainchild of Colonel Richard Lieber, an Indianapolis businessman and German immigrant, who suggested that it be created as part of Indiana’s 100th birthday celebration.
The state opened its first park – McCormick’s Creek – in the summer of 1916 and the dedication of Turkey Run State Park came soon after, according to the DNR.
Lieber went on a national leader in the state parks movement and helped other states develop park systems as well.
Lesley Weidenbener is a managing editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.