Hamilton County Parks receives 129 acres of land

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Individuals that played a role in the CILTI Land Transfer of Burr Oak Bend recently gathered at the site to recognize the momentous transaction. From left, Friends Foundation Board Members Ryan Fuhrmann, Todd Irwin, Thomas McLean and Executive
Director April Williams; CILTI staff Stephanie Paine Crossin and Executive Director Cliff Chapman; HCPR Director Chris Stice; Hamilton County Council President Steve Schwartz, Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt and HCPR Deputy Director Bruce Oldham. (Photo courtesy of Byron Settles)

By Chris Bavender

A critical shortage of park space in Hamilton County has been offset by a recent land transfer of 129 acres from Central Indiana Land Trust, referred to as Burr Oak Bend, to Hamilton County Parks and Recreation.

The land has not been assigned a postal address but is in the area of 206th Street and Riverwood Avenue in Noblesville.

“The land acquisition and initial restoration activities on the preserve were supported by mitigation funds from the White River Settlement stemming from the 1999 White River fish kill and administered by the Natural Resource Defense Assessment, the Amos W. Butler Audubon Society and private funding,” said Chris Stice, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation director.

Stice said that while Hamilton County continues to experience “astounding growth,” the amount of dedicated park and recreation space doesn’t keep pace with the measure of growth and development. Based on standards established by Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources in its Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, a county that doesn’t have the recommended supply of outdoor-recreation acres of 55 acres per 1,000 population or greater, is technically deemed a “critical county.”

“Unfortunately, Hamilton County falls into that critical category that identifies the county as significantly lacking in park land,” Stice said. “While the land acquired by Hamilton County Parks in the transfer of Burr Oak Bend from CILTI is greatly welcomed and immensely appreciated, we, as a county, have a way to go to ensure an adequate amount of park space is provided our county residents.”

HCPR’s goal to provide passive recreation to Hamilton County residents, central to its mission according to Stice, will be achieved by the installation of “strategically placed, crushed stone trails on the newly acquired land.”

“The maintained trails will accommodate a variety of quiet recreational activities, such as wildlife viewing, photography, nature education programming, running and walking,” he said. “Operation of motorized vehicles by the public will not be permitted on the trails or the property. No timeline has been set for trail development at this time.”

The park system saw an overall increase of usership by the public of nearly 200 percent during the pandemic due in part, Stice said, to the healing nature and emotional benefits provided by parks and the outdoors.

“I am proud of our park board and staff that have worked tirelessly to keep our county parks open and safe since the start of the pandemic,” Stice said. “With the addition of Burr Oak Bend, we can further extend that service to members of our Hamilton County community that desire such natural resources to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”