Gov. Mike Pence joined members of the Bicentennial Commission and the Knox County Parks & Recreation Department today to officially dedicate the recently acquired Fox Ridge Nature Park northeast of Vincennes.
The 95-acre former golf course property includes more than 2 miles of paved cart paths that will be developed into walking and biking trails. Pence announced that the Department of Natural Resources has awarded a $200,000 Land & Water Conservation Fund grant to expand trails, install native tree and prairie plantings, and develop public fishing facilities for two ponds at the new park.
“Today is an exciting day as we celebrate the dedication of Fox Ridge Nature Park, an act of stewardship that will benefit Hoosiers for years to come,” Pence said. “It seems all too fitting that we have dedicated this outstanding Bicentennial project in the same county that hosted our first Territorial Capitol, and I couldn’t be more proud to join members of the Bicentennial Commission and local officials to mark this special day.”
The Parks Department completed the purchase of the property in April. The county provided half the purchase price with matching funds from the Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT). The Parks Department owns and manages the property while the DNR holds a conservation easement ensuring public access and permanent protection.
“Fox Ridge adds a unique mix of amenities for residents to use and enjoy,” said Rama Sobhani, Knox County Parks director. “We are grateful to the Bicentennial Nature Trust and members of the community who helped make this day a reality.”
The BNT is a project of the Bicentennial Commission, co-chaired by former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton. The statewide program is aimed at expanding trails, conservation areas and recreation sites to help celebrate Indiana’s 200 years of statehood in 2016. The state parks system was created during Indiana’s centennial celebration in 1916, and BNT projects will provide a similar legacy for generations of Hoosiers.
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 with the local community sponsor. To date, the Bicentennial Commission has approved 156 projects, and 90 of the projects have been completed for a total of 6,646 acres.
“We applaud Knox County leaders for their effort to preserve Fox Ridge for public use,” Skillman and Hamilton said in a joint statement. “The Bicentennial Commission is committed to nature conservation in Indiana, and we look forward to celebrating many more success stories for the Bicentennial Nature Trust in the coming year.” In addition to Fox Ridge Nature Park, Knox County Parks operates four properties, including the 254-acre Ouabache Trails Park featuring hiking trails, mountain biking, and public camping. For more information, visit knoxcountyparks.com.
The BNT is seeking additional private donations of land and money as well as input from communities on viable projects. Applications for the Nature Trust can be found at www.in.gov/naturetrust. For more information on the Bicentennial Commission, visit indiana2016.org.