By Haley Miller
Donald and Mary Jane Eichacker-Kaufman, neighbors and donors to the Sargent Road Nature Park Project, recently visited the property at 82nd Street and Sargent Road. It wasn’t their first visit, but it was still memorable.
“Beautiful, blazing blue sky,” Mary Jane said. “You’re out in the middle of the field and in every direction are waves of goldenrod. Masses of gold against the blue sky and the trees that were at that time green. You could hear a hawk crying overhead, and it was just a completely magic picture.”
Mud Creek Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust that advocates for land preservation within the “Mud Creek Valley,” which spans Marion, Hamilton and Madison counties, is raising money to purchase the 25-acre property by September 2021 and eventually build a nature park. A $100,000 grant from the Herbert Simon Family Foundation last month, in addition to grassroots donations, helped the nonprofit reach nearly half of its fundraising goal.
“From $80,000 to now $268,000 in a couple of months, we’re right back on track to where we need to be,” said Benjamin Miller, president of Mud Creek Conservancy. “But we’re just about halfway to our fundraising goal, so we still need a lot more support from the community, and (we’re) hoping to secure some additional grants as well.”
Miller said the land is part of an extensive nature corridor called Mud Creek Valley. It provides habitats for species such as monarch butterflies, eastern box turtles, deer and mink, among other wildlife.
Dr. Franklin Roesner, president of project partner Sargent Road Association, said the area has features not that are typically not found central Indiana.
“It’s in the edge of the valley that contains topography and canopy that are unique in central Indiana,” Roesner said. “Protecting that and having it be centrally located makes it the perfect site for this project.”
Roesner said the park will provide local residents the opportunity to walk, jog and participate in other forms of healthy recreation close to home. But he emphasized that the project is only the beginning.
“We start thinking about what we can envision for the future,” Roesner said. “This park and more conservation, more connectivity (will) really help us reach the potential that I think we have, (which is to) to help make this the most desirable place to live in central Indiana.”
With fundraising opportunities limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mud Creek Conservancy hosts small, private tours so members of the community can see the land. Interested parties are required to arrange a tour slot via the conservancy’s website, mudcreekconservancy.org.
Miller said that although the coronavirus forced the conservancy to alter their fundraising plans, it also shed light on the need for more parks in communities.
“I think that’s shown people that we don’t have enough preserved natural areas for people to recreate,” Miller said. “This park is not a solution, but it’s definitely a part of a larger solution of needing more protected greenspaces and public trails.”
For their Silver Award Project, the Scouts of Girl Scout Troop 2715 chose to be ambassadors for the Sargent Road Nature Park Project. Each Scout is working on an individual project that focuses on a different feature of the property, from box turtles to monarch butterflies, as part of an awareness campaign to support the land purchase.
Troop leader Carolyn Lorenzoni said the project is a great opportunity for the Scouts, who will be able to “look back on it not just for years but for generations to come.”
“In Girl Scouts, we are constantly empowering young people to recognize that they can change the world,” Lorenzoni said. “This project is nothing different. They are in fact changing a part of the world by working to help make this park a reality.”