Every day we have the privilege of coming to work in one of the most scenic and popular places in Hamilton County – Forest Park. When I sat down to write this week’s column, I wondered just how many folks really know the story behind this unique property. Forest Park was purchased in 1925 at a price of $225 per acre. Development began in 1926 with the purchase and planting of some 12,000 trees, to that date the largest planting in the state. Also in 1926, a large pavilion, which would later be known as the Forest Park Inn, was constructed.
In 1927, a group of local golfers following the plans of America’s greatest golf course architect, Tom Bendelow, constructed Forest Park Golf Course – the first golf course in Hamilton County. It was constructed mainly with volunteer labor and donations and was delivered to the new Noblesville Parks Board debt-free. Greens fees for the new course were established at 50 cents per round. Golf flourished, and Forest Park went on to be the site where three Indiana Golf Hall of Famers served as head professional. One of those professionals, Ralph Stonehouse, had the distinct honor of being the player to hit the first ball in what we know today as the Masters.
From the very beginning, Forest Park was the center of civic pride and the hub for a wide variety of recreational activities. Today, the park plays host to several recreational opportunities including a trailhead for miles of walking and biking pleasure. It is the home of Noblesville Babe Ruth Baseball, the Indiana Transportation Museum and the Forest Park Aquatic Center. The “pool” is one of the few 10-lane, 50-meter swimming facilities in the Midwest that also has a diving well with boards and platforms from one meter to 10 meters high. The complex also includes an infant and toddler’s activity pool and a spray ground.
There are four shelters and numerous picnic sites that have hosted family reunions and corporate picnics for more than 85 years. Shelter No. 1 is also the site of free community movies, concerts and car shows. The Forest Park Inn and the Lodge at Forest Park are the preferred site of numerous receptions, reunions, banquets and other events, as well as the location for variety of fitness and wellness classes, and also host to summer nature camp programs.
Near Shelter No. 1 is the Forest Park skate park and tennis courts. The skate park is one of the most popular extreme sports facilities in central Indiana, and the tennis courts are one of a handful of artificial grass facilities in the Midwest.
Finally, what is a great park without miniature golf and a carousel? The Tom Thumb miniature golf course has been active since the early 1930s, and the Hershel Carousel has been delighting youngsters since 1928. So come out to Forest Park – make it the site for “your vacation in town.”