The Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday used a three-stop tour to kick off a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Indiana state parks system.
The tour began with a pancake breakfast and ceremonies at Indiana’s first state park – McCormick’s Creek in Owen County – and included a proclamation from Gov. Mike Pence declaring the day as Indiana State Parks Day.
Additional stops were at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, where First Lady Karen Pence was the featured speaker, and at Turkey Run State Park in Parke County.
“Indiana’s citizens have certainly enjoyed this birthday gift they first unwrapped in 1916,” said Karen Pence, recalling childhood memories of state park camping trips. “Today there are an estimated 15 to 16 million visits each year. People hike, camp, stay in our great Indiana State Park Inns, ride a mountain bike, or visit a nature center.”
Fritz Lieber, great grandson of Col. Richard Lieber, read a passage from his great grandfather’s report to the 1916 Indiana Historical Commission that proposed development of a state parks system.
“The chief purpose of State Parks is to refresh and strengthen and renew tired people, and fit them for the common round of daily life,” Richard Lieber wrote. “In conclusion, I hope and trust that the small beginning we have made will have laid the foundation for a comprehensive system of State Parks which will not only stand forever as a token of the past, but which will bring health, wealth and happiness to our own generation and the many that will come after us.”
McCormick’s Creek and Turkey Run were presented to the State on Dec. 16, 1916, as Indiana’s first two state parks, representing a gift to Indiana citizens to mark the first 100 years of statehood.
Richard Lieber later became the first director of the Department of Conservation, the predecessor of today’s DNR.
DNR director Cameron Clark noted at the morning ceremony at McCormick’s Creek that the agency’s Division of State Parks has grown to include 24 state parks, eight reservoir properties, and seven state park inns. The division encompass about 170,000 acres with 2,000 building, 700 miles of trails, 38 state-dedicated nature preserves embedded with parks, 8,400 campsites, more than 200 shelters, 22 nature centers, 16 swimming pools, 15 beaches, 631 hotel/lodge rooms and 149 cabins.
Other speakers at the three events included DNR deputy director John Davis; DNR State Parks director Dan Bortner; Perry Hammock and Mary McConnell from the Bicentennial Commission; and students from McCormick’s Creek Elementary School, Crestview Elementary School in Lawrence Township, and Turkey Run Junior Senior High School, who spoke about their appreciation for state parks.
State Parks all across Indiana will continue the celebration through 2016 with a variety of special events. For more information on dates and locations, go to INStateParks100.com.