Indiana State Parks: Treasures in Your Own Backyard

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August 2009 Guide Cover


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Widely recognized as among the best in the country, Indiana state parks are a great source of Hoosier pride. Anyone who’s visited Turkey Run, McCormick’s Creek, Indiana Dunes or any of the dozens of other Indiana state parks can’t help but marvel at their striking and diverse topography.

Yet although we owe the parks’ raw beauty to glaciers and other natural forces, these wild areas would have vanished long ago if not for the largely behind-the-scenes efforts of the many people—park directors, conservationists, ecologists and others—who over the past century have worked to preserve some of Indiana’s most stunning natural landscapes. INDIANA STATE PARKS: TREASURES IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD tells the story of Indiana’s state parks and the people who shaped (and continue to shape) them as a resource for all citizens.

The story begins in the early decades of the 20th century when prominent Indianapolis businessman Richard Lieber emerged as the unlikely leader of a movement to create a system of state parks in Indiana. Inspired by John Muir, Stephen Mather and other prominent voices of the national conservation movement, Lieber marshaled his considerable energy and political acumen to preserve the state’s rapidly disappearing forests, wetlands and other wild spaces. From his appointment as chairman of the State Parks Committee in 1916 to his resignation from the Department of Conservation in 1933, Lieber oversaw the creation of 10 state parks, firmly establishing Indiana’s parks as among the nation’s best.

The parks system continued to thrive throughout the Great Depression thanks largely to the Civilian Conservation Corps—a New Deal public work relief program for unemployed men. CCC workers vastly improved the parks’ infrastructure by upgrading sanitation systems, roads and shelters. By the mid 1960s, though, Indiana’s state parks had begun to decline. A surge in the popularity of family camping after the Second World War, combined with the state’s hands-off approach to park management, left many of the parks in ecological turmoil.

Thanks to the rise of a more professional approach to park management in the late 1960s, Indiana’s state parks soon rebounded and today are thriving once again. Ongoing conservation projects including deer management and research on invasive species of plants and animals have helped return the Indiana state parks system to elite status as one of the country’s best examples of conservation in action.

INDIANA STATE PARKS: TREASURES IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD showcases and celebrates Indiana state parks, and introduces viewers to their vibrant, natural beauty and the people who have dedicated their lives to preserving them for future generations.