For immediate release:
April 28, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - In celebration of Indiana’s 2016 Bicentennial, State Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) says the acreage of several Lake County parks will likely increase through a partnership between Lake County Parks Department and the Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT). Expanding trails, wetlands and recreational sites is the focus of the statewide conservation initiative.
Lake County Parks Department, the City of Gary, and the City of Crown Point have each secured funding for land acquisition projects through the BNT. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is working with local partners to complete the land acquisition process in a timely fashion.
“The Nature Trust project seeks to honor the 100-year-old tradition of conservation established with the creation of the Indiana State Park system during the state’s centennial,” Brown said. “Just as Indiana’s existing state parks have become treasured over time, the land acquired in honor of the Bicentennial will provide a similar legacy for future generations of Hoosiers to enjoy.”
The City of Gary will acquire a half-acre of natural sand dunes to complement the unobstructed views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline at Marquette Park. Lake Michigan, northerly winds, vegetation, and sand interact to form the distinctive dune landscape where several rare plant and bird species thrive.
“Preserving and strengthening Marquette Park’s natural features will help re-establish the park as one of Northwest Indiana’s premier lakefront destinations,” noted Brown. “With the land acquisition, space for recreational activities will be increased to enhance the overall park experience for visitors.”
Deep River County Park near Merrillville will add 124 acres to its current landscape of over 1,200 acres. The acquisition features about 81 acres of wetlands and woodlands, 40 acres of agricultural land, and a three-acre pond for fishing and birdwatching.
In Crown Point, Beaver Dam Ditch and Pond Nature Park will be developed from the purchase of 31 acres. Construction plans include a 17-acre pond to create a natural habitat and provide flood control. The park’s name comes from a small creek known as Beaver Dam Ditch that runs through the property.
Oak Ridge Prairie County Park, located in Griffith, will acquire 97 acres of land to construct a non-motorized bike trail. The two longest and busiest trail corridors in Northwest Indiana—the Erie Lackawanna and Oak Savannah Trails—will be connected by the new bike trail. Another five acres will be purchased to enhance connections to the 8.25 mile Oak Savannah Trail Corridor at the north end of the park.
An initial $20 million in state funding was obligated for BNT projects, and the Lilly Endowment donated another $10 million to the effort. Money from the fund is matched no less than $1:1 by project sponsors. To date, the Bicentennial Commission has approved 128 projects in 56 counties. The completion of 68 of those projects has resultantly protected more than 6,900 acres statewide.
In addition to the Bicentennial Nature Trust initiative, a statewide Bicentennial Torch Relay will take place during the year-long celebration to unite the Hoosier State as “One Indiana.” The torch will pass through all of Indiana’s 92 counties, covering 2,300 miles, over a six-week period and end in downtown Indianapolis on Oct. 15, 2016.