Beckenholdt Park a nature-lover’s gem


Beckenholdt Park contains about 60 acres of reclaimed farmland on the far north side of town. The actual address is 2770 Franklin St. It is a park that is evolving on a regular basis.

With blacktop walking paths, it has become a favorite for walkers and joggers of all ages. There’s a lot of nature going on at this park. Most people recognize the prairie grasses and flowers along the south and east side of the park. Look for rattlesnake master and compass plants during the summer.

One question that gets asked is “Why do we burn the prairie?” The simple answer is because we have to. In order to ensure that the plants there regrow on a regular basis, they need fire. There are many plants there that require high heat for the seeds to open up, and the way to do that is as nature does it.

While a lot of parks use some of their area for prairie plants, most people don’t realize that prairies are not natural to this part of Indiana. Back in the early days, Indiana was heavily forested with only a few open spots. The real prairie started in the northwest part of the state.

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These areas were settled later than the rest of the state due to the mistaken belief that any land that wouldn’t grow trees wasn’t good farmland. They were wrong. It’s some of the best farmland to be found. It was just difficult to plow until the invention of the steel plow.

Originally there was about 2 million acres of prairie; there is now less than 1,000. Most can be found along right-of-ways and pioneer cemeteries.

The other problem is that most settlers thought the area too vast, you could see too far and the grass, would grow taller than a horse and rider.

What a lot of people don’t notice yet is that along the north trail, there will be planted (ongoing) at least 100 Indiana native trees. Future plans will include signage that will tell you facts about each tree.

Also gone largely unnoticed is the far north edge. This area is slowly being reforested (also with native trees), and some volunteer trees left to grow as they sprout. It will be a number of years before this area is completely given over to forest. So while I won’t be around to see it forested, my great-grandchildren will.

Also within the park are three wetland areas. We have a seasonal wetland on the east side with boardwalks for when it get really wet. Then there’s the lake, good for fishing (but not swimming; get a fishing license).

On the far west side is another wetland area; sometimes it goes dry, sometimes not. It’s home to quite a bit of wildlife, ducks, herons, along with all the other creatures that like that environment (including at least one snapping turtle).

A new addition this year is a monarch waystation, planted with plants that they use for food and laying their eggs on. We hope to be able to attract more of the monarchs in the future, along with other butterflies.

Of course being a park we also have a shelter with picnic tables, a grill and such. There is also a small amphitheater for your use. By golly we even have a modern restroom installed, just for you.

Plus there’s Rovers Run, a park for the dogs. Which people from out of state have told me is one of the best ones they’ve seen.

There are in the works various improvements being planned to upgrade the park. One thing that is ongoing is a Native Tree Walk; the plan is to plant 100 native trees along the north trail. So far we have about 60 planted and will have informational signs for them all. More on that as the time gets closer.

I’m pushing for a Four Season Nature Center for the park system, and Beckenholdt is one of my two places I’d like to see one.