Nature nook

GREENFIELD — An expansion to Beckenholdt Family Park will soon offer a secluded retreat for local walkers and nature buffs.

The Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department has purchased a 15-acre plot of land adjacent to Beckenholdt Park, which will be used to expand the green space on the city’s northwest side by about 25 percent. The purchase, made possible by a roughly $220,000 grant from the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, will allow visitors to explore a wetlands area on the park’s western boundary.

Beckenholdt Park is located on a 60-acre plot at the southwest corner of Franklin Street and County Road 300N.

The purchase also includes a roughly 12-acre swath of wooded land located just north of Interstate 70, which lies less than a half-mile south of the park. Ellen Kuker, Greenfield Parks and Recreation superintendent, said the trees on that land will shield visitors from the interstate, buffering noise from cars and trucks traveling the busy corridor.

The plot of land will allow visitors to explore a 3.5-acre wetland with less chance of running into fellow park-goers, Kuker said. She hopes the addition will attract more residents to the park, which already includes a 1.3-mile trail network, a 1.5-acre fishing pond and a 2-acre dog park.

Kuker also said she plans to add to the park’s existing trails by incorporating paths through the new wooded patch and around the wetlands within the next several years.

The land’s appraised value totaled about $445,000, but local custom homebuilder Dave Sego and former IndyCar driver Mark Dismore, who previously owned the site, accepted about half that amount so the parks department would incur no additional costs.

Kuker said she’s thrilled to secure the remainder of the wetlands — something she and other parks staff for years had hoped to accomplish.

“To be able to preserve this land in its natural setting and share it with the rest of the community, that’s an incredible opportunity,” she said.

Ron Pritzke, a former park board member, was one of a handful of local residents who helped raise $360,000 in private donations during the late ’90s that went toward the purchase the original 60 acres.

The city opened the land as a public park in 2009.

Its opening was well-received. Visitors come to Beckenholdt to find amenities unlike those available at other city parks, said Ryan Andis, who previously lived near the park and was drawn to the quiet space.

Andis said he appreciated the park’s variety, especially along the trail.

“If you walk the entire trail, it goes through a lot of different types of land,” Andis said.

To Jim McWhinney, longtime maintenance foreman for the parks and recreation department, natural areas are something that can make a community stand out.

“Almost all cities will provide decent utilities, decent streets and emergency services,” McWhinney said. “But what you have beyond that — what’s available for families — that’s what really makes a place special.”

The Bicentennial Nature Trust, established in 2012 through the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, seeks to conserve natural spaces throughout the state. Property purchased through the program becomes part of the “public trust” to ensure it is protected and preserved for future Hoosiers to use and enjoy, according to the Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the initiative.

Leaders from around the state sparked the idea for the nature trust to honor the state parks system, which was established in 1916 to commemorate the state’s centennial, said Mark Becker, director of the program.

Becker said Greenfield is among more than 150 communities around the state selected to receive the award. Kuker applied for the program in September and received word that Greenfield was chosen last week.

Recipients of the grant must either match half of dollars needed to fund the purchase or receive the land through a donation. Sego and Dismore agreed to donate half of the land, sparing the city from using taxpayer dollars, Kuker said.

Though Sego and Dismore had floated ideas of building a senior living community on the western land adjacent to the park, they had no immediate plans to develop the area and saw the land as a better fit for the parks department.

“If you take the time to explore that wetlands area, it’s just beautiful,” Sego said. “There’s nothing else like that around here that I’m aware of, and now, the whole city can enjoy that.”

About the Bicentennial Nature Trust

The Beckenholdt Park expansion is funded through the Bicentennial Nature Trust, established in 2012 through the Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The trust seeks to conserve natural spaces throughout the state. Property purchased through the grant program becomes part of the “public trust” to ensure it is protected and preserved for future Hoosiers to use and enjoy, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the initiative.

Leaders from around the state sparked the idea for the nature trust to honor the state parks system, which was established in 1916 to commemorate the state’s centennial.

Author photo
Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.