New nature center, event barn among proposed plans at Carpenter Nature Preserve in Zionsville 

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Plans for the future Carpenter Nature Preserve are beginning to take shape. 

Members of the project team joined Zionsville Supt. of Parks and Recreation Jarod Logsdon in presenting the preserve’s master plan to the Zionsville Town Council at its May 16 meeting. 

Park planners met with community members to gather input and feedback as they developed the plan for the 216-acre site on the southwest corner of U.S. 421 and Ind. 32. The preferred plan includes demolishing the former clubhouse building and replacing it with a nature center and adding a 5K course, a tree canopy walk, boardwalks over wetlands and a potential future phase called White Oak Commons that would include a small event center and restaurant or retailer. 

Development of the park is likely to happen in phases and is expected to cost between $20 million and $30 million, depending on the scope and which elements are selected. The first phase includes acquisition of the park land, which is expected to cost $4.5 million. 

Funding for the project has not been determined, although councilors discussed a potential bond issuance to cover acquisition. The newly formed Zionsville Parks Foundation is eager to help fundraise for the project, according to Logsdon, but it can’t become involved until after the town purchases the land. Nancy Carpenter, the foundation’s founder and president, is a landowner of the nature preserve site. 

“With the land in our pocket, we can begin to work with all of the tools in our toolbelt,” Logsdon said. 

Town Councilor Bryan Traylor said he supports the project and wants to ensure it is completed in a fiscally responsible way, which could include prioritizing acquisition of the park to open fundraising through the foundation. 

“While the Carpenters are committed to saving this property for the town, I don’t want to take advantage of their generosity any longer than we have to,” Traylor said. “If we can get the acquisition done, (since) it’s a legacy project, time is on our side.” 

The future preserve was the site of the Wolf Run Golf Club until it closed in 2017. The town denied plans to rezone the land and transform it into a neighborhood with up to 560 homes and mixed-use buildings. Carpenter and her husband, Jim, purchased the property for $5.5 million in early February 2021 with plans to sell it to the town at a reduced price so it could be repurposed as a public park. 

Learn more and share feedback about the proposed plans for purchasing the nature preserve site at reasite.mysocialpinpoint.com/carpenter-nature-center/carpenter-nature-center-home.

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