As city officials reminisced about the efforts it took to make Beckenholdt Park a reality, the gathered crowd began to murmur and point toward the sky.
A hawk, perhaps of the red-tailed variety, had chosen to alight on a tree branch near the small gathering celebrating the recent addition of 15 acres to the 60 acres of trails and woods of Beckenholdt Park.
Parks officials recently celebrated the acquisition of the land, which they purchased with the help of a Bicentennial Nature Trust grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Officials say owning the land in its entirety, which includes three acres of wetland with a pond, will help parks employees preserve the site for future generations. Officials hope the sight of birds of prey and other natural wonders will become more common for area residents as they increase the acreage of public parks in the county.
The land purchase includes 11 acres of wooded land that serves as a buffer between the park and Interstate 70; about one acre connecting the buffer and the current park land; and three acres of wetlands, including a small pond that parks officials previously owned one third of, said Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department director Ellen Kuker.
Attractions at Beckenholdt Park, 2770 N. Franklin St., include an amphitheater, fishing pier, wetland, observation deck, two-acre dog park, walking paths and a picnic shelter.
The Bicentennial Nature Trust was announced in 2012 as a way to honor the creation of Indiana’s state park system in 1916, according to the DNR website.
The trust was created to preserve and protect conservation and recreation areas throughout Indiana by matching donations of land or dollars. Indiana allocated $20 million in state funding to support the trust, and the Lilly Endowment contributed an additional $10 million grant, according to the website.
Calling the creation of the preserves like Beckenholdt and Thornwood Preserve, which opened earlier this year, a labor of love, Kuker said she felt blessed by residents who consented to allow their property to become public land for people to enjoy.
In 1998, the parks department claimed ownership of 182 acres of park land, but now, the city owns about 367 acres dedicated to parks, said parks board chair Rick Roberts. He emphasized that no local taxes dollars were spent to acquire the land.
Roberts declared the small pond, on the southwest side of Beckenholdt Park, “Pritzke Pond,” after Ron Pritzke, a lawyer Roberts said was instrumental in the acquisition of the land for Beckenholdt Park, Brandywine Park and the Thornwood Preserve.
Pritzke thanked the gathered officials for the honor but said many people contributed their time to the effort.