Special Newsletter

The Indiana Parks Alliance has always had a two-fold mission: advocacy and fundraising. Because of the many years of underfunding of the Department of Natural Resources, and the toll that has taken on the resources and facilities in our State Parks and state owned Nature Preserves, our main emphasis has often been on advocacy. However, we have never lost sight of the power of both volunteers and private fundraising to make a difference. This special issue of the IPA newsletter highlights some of the things that your donations have helped accomplish.

In the year of the pandemic, adults are either discovering or rediscovering the value and importance of nature. IPA strongly believes that this is even more important for our children. While many of us grew up with nature, that is often not the case today. The Discover the Outdoors program, administered by our partner conservation organization, Indiana Natural Resources Foundation, provides grants for organized trips for children to an Indiana state park or reservoir. IPA makes an annual donation to this program.

The majority of state parks, and one state-owned nature preserve, have Friends groups that support that individual property. They provide many hours of volunteer labor and raise funds for initiatives at that specific property. IPA works to support those organizations, helping with expenses for their annual training sessions and with some of their individual projects through an annual grant program. For major Friends’ fundraising efforts, IPA may be only one of many donors contributing. For others IPA may be the only donor, with matching funds and/or volunteer labor from the local group to complete the project.
Several of these project grants are highlighted below.

McCormick’s Creek State Park: Renovation of historic fire tower
In 2015 Friends of McCormick’s Creek State Park initiated a major fundraising effort to renovate the historic fire tower, built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The goal of the project was to ensure the continued safety for use by the public, and to reopen the cabin at the top of the tower to visitors. IPA’s donation, matched by the Friends, enabled them to hire an engineer to evaluate the structural integrity of the tower, and make recommendations for repairs and upgrades. This report then enabled them to continue to raise funds which resulted in the re-opening of the tower and base area plaza this year.

Shakamak State Park: Kayak launches
In 2019 IPA matched funds from Friends of Shakamak State Park to enable them to purchase and install two kayak launches. Shakamak has three large lakes located within its boundaries, and water-based activities are a major part of its recreational opportunities. While this has traditionally been heavily focused on fishing, other types of boating activities, such as kayaking, have become increasingly popular. These facilities enable users to launch safely and without tipping themselves and the kayak contents into the water.

Spring Mill State Park: Tree planting
Spring Mill State Park has experienced the loss of a number of trees in public areas due to the emerald ash borer, storms, and other natural causes. IPA provided a grant in 2019 for planting 2” diameter native trees (multiple species) in the campground, picnic areas and the Village. Friends of Spring Mill State Park supplemented our grant with additional funds and arranged for volunteers to plant them, saving the labor costs. As a bonus, much of the volunteer labor was provided by a local Girl Scout troop, providing opportunities for them to be invested in the wellbeing of these trees and other natural aspects of the park.

Harmonie State Park-Outdoor Education Pavilion
The nature center at Harmonie State Park is located in the campground. The building is small, and nature talks and other interpretive presentations must be held outside. Friends of Harmonie State Park held a multi-year fundraising effort to build a large shelter suitable for holding these presentations. IPA donated toward this effort in 2017. Work began on the structure shortly thereafter, and the completed facility was dedicated in 2019.
Other projects

Since its inception, IPA has also donated to projects at Brown County State Park, Fort Harrison State Park, Limberlost/Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserves, and Tippecanoe River State Park, as well as projects to help State Parks train employees on trail maintenance and Nature Preserves print a special guide to select preserves. We hope to highlight additional grant projects in future editions of our quarterly newsletter.

Since 2017 IPA has contracted for treatment of ash trees on select state parks and state-owned nature preserves to protect them from the ravages of the emerald ash borer. Almost all untreated ash trees will die, threatening extinction of these magnificent trees from the properties. IPA has directly treated trees at Calvert & Porter NP, Fortune Woods NP, Hall Woods NP, Hardy Lake, Harmonie SP, McCormick’s Creek SP, Mounds SP, Shades SP, Shrader Weaver NP, and Turkey Run SP. IPA has also purchased equipment and chemicals for Division of Nature Preserves personnel to treat additional ash trees at other properties. Well over 200 ash trees are actively part of the program, some over three feet in diameter.

2020 has been a year of challenges, but perhaps you’ve noticed one gleaming bright spot. People rediscovered nature in a big way. As a reflection of this, Indiana State Parks sold 14,000 more annual gate passes this year (through mid-September) than in 2019.

This is putting a tremendous strain on the parks’ resources, which are being reduced due to shortfalls in state tax revenues. Your year-end gift to the Indiana Parks Alliance will help us speak up on behalf of Indiana’s natural heritage, see that it is protected, and make a safe, rewarding outdoor experience accessible to all.