2015-12-22 / Front Page

Indiana DNR Kicks Off Centennial Celebration At McCormick’s Creek

by Travis Curry
Editor


Fritz Lieber, great-grandson of Colonel Richard Lieber, read a passage from his great-grandfather’s report to the 1916 Indiana Historical Commission that proposed development of a state parks system. (Staff Photo) Fritz Lieber, great-grandson of Colonel Richard Lieber, read a passage from his great-grandfather’s report to the 1916 Indiana Historical Commission that proposed development of a state parks system. (Staff Photo) “The Commission is convinced that the consensus of Hoosier opinion is that some dignified and worthy permanent memorial should be established. Of the various propositions suggested, none has met with such general and hearty commendation... or seemed so likely of successful accomplishment as the creation of State Parks.” – Indiana Historical Commission, 1916

On Wednesday, December 16 the Department of Natural Resources used a three-stop tour to kick off a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Indiana state parks system, proving Hoosiers and visitors to our great state still have a love for nature and experiencing the outdoors, even in the digital age.


McCormick’s Creek State Park Property Manager Dwight Brooks is interview for an episode of Indiana Newsdesk, covering last Wednesday’s Countdown to 100: Indiana State Parks Centennial Celebration Launch. (Staff Photo) McCormick’s Creek State Park Property Manager Dwight Brooks is interview for an episode of Indiana Newsdesk, covering last Wednesday’s Countdown to 100: Indiana State Parks Centennial Celebration Launch. (Staff Photo) The tour began with a pancake breakfast and ceremonies at Indiana’s first state park – McCormick’s Creek – and included a proclamation from Governor Mike Pence declaring the day as Indiana State Parks Day.

Additional stops were at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, where First Lady Karen Pence was the featured speaker, and at Turkey Run State Park in Parke County.

Looking back, the Indiana State Parks system was established largely through the efforts of Colonel Richard Lieber, an Indianapolis businessman and German immigrant. He believed that a state parks system should be created as part of the centennial celebration.

Lieber believed in making social progress through the restorative powers of nature. The idea gained traction in 1915 when the old-growth forest, rife with sandstone canyons, known locally as Turkey Run became available.

After initially losing a bid for the land to The Hoosier Veneer Company, the Committee turned its attention to another available property – McCormick’s Creek.

While the State Park Committee, thanks to wide public support, later successfully raised enough money to buy back the Turkey

Run land at a healthy profit for Hoosier Veneer, McCormick’s Creek would go down in history as the first Indiana State Park. The Committee combined funds with Owen County to purchase the land at a cost of $5,250.

McCormick’s Creek officially opened on July 4, 1916. Turkey Run became a state park later that year.

During Wednesday’s program held in the Oak Room on the second floor of the Canyon Inn, Fritz Lieber, great-grandson of Colonel Richard Lieber, read a passage from his great-grandfather’s report to the 1916 Indiana Historical Commission that proposed development of a state parks system.

“The chief purpose of State Parks is to refresh and strengthen and renew tired people, and fit them for the common round of daily life,” Richard Lieber wrote. “In conclusion, I hope and trust that the small beginning we have made will have laid the foundation for a comprehensive system of State Parks which will not only stand forever as a token of the past, but which will bring health, wealth and happiness to our own generation and the many that will come after us.”

In the years that followed, Lieber helped lead the nationwide movement to establish state parks systems in other states. He was the first director of the Indiana Department of Conservation (1917- 1933). Even after that, he remained involved in the state and national parks movement.

Before his death in 1944 during a stay at the Canyon Inn, Lieber traveled across the country learning and sharing the experiences he had in Indiana. His ashes, along with those of his wife and son, are buried at a memorial to him at Turkey Run State Park.

Indiana DNR Director Cameron Clark noted how the agency’s Division of State Parks has grown to include 24 state parks, eight reservoir properties, and seven state park inns in the years since McCormick’s Creek and Turkey Run were presented to the State on December 16, 1916, as Indiana’s first two state parks, representing a gift to Indiana citizens to mark the first 100 years of statehood. The division has grown to encompass about 170,000 acres with 2,000 buildings, 700 miles of trails, 38 state-dedicated nature preserves embedded with parks, 8,400 campsites, more than 200 shelters, 22 nature centers, 16 swimming pools, 15 beaches, 631 hotel/lodge rooms, and 149 cabins.

“Over time, there have been changes but I’m sure Colonel Lieber never perceived how technology has brought our parks closer to people through the Web and mobile devices,” Clark said. “We think when you come to these state parks, you can’t help but have an appreciation for history, nature, and getting outside. I’m so proud to work alongside our DNR staff. Like Col. Lieber and his committee that never got discouraged when outbid for the Turkey Run property, our staff find ways to accomplish goals in all kinds of conditions and to make this experience one that includes those naturally made memories that you can take away.”

Dan Bortner, Director of Indiana State Parks, later introduced Sunny Brown and Jarett Pope, fifth graders at McCormick’s Creek Elementary School, who each read prepared essays.

Sunny said, “I love going to McCormick’s Creek State Park” and “my family also loves going to McCormick’s Creek State Park.” She went on to list the outdoor activities she and her family enjoy and shared her favorite park memory – riding a horse at the stables named “Sam.”

Jarett shared memories of how he learned to swim at the park pool and about his favorite place inside the park – Wolf Cave.

Another of the morning’s featured speakers, Indiana Bicentennial Commission Executive Director Perry Hammock, spoke of the Commission’s ongoing effort to honor our state’s 200 years of history, and to do so in a modern way that engages all 6.5 million Hoosiers and leaves a lasting legacy for future generations.

“My Commission has been working since 2011, so for four years they have been planning how to make the bicentennial special. Particularly as we look forward, the legacy of this centennial, our bicentennial, is children,” he said. “On December 11th we kicked off a year of activity and as we plan we want to build a better Indiana so that these children will have a better place to grow up, raise their families, and bring them back to McCormick’s Creek and other parks across the state. In 1916 the Centennial Commission said: ‘The Commission is convinced that the consensus of Hoosier opinion is that some dignified and worthy, permanent memorial should be established. Of the various propositions suggested (and there were about a dozen) none has met with such general and hearty commendation or seemed so likely a successful accomplishment as the creation of state parks.’ And they were right. One hundred years later, look at where we are. Last year we had almost 16 million visitors to our state parks across the state.”

Hammock noted that all 92 counties are active in the 2016 bicentennial celebration.

“We have over 900 projects endorsed throughout all counties including over 200 projects for youth and education,” he explained. “One of the big projects is the Bicentennial Nature Trust. The Bicentennial Nature Trust was created in 2011 when the State set aside twenty million dollars to help bring new public land to bear for nature and enjoyment. As Richard Lieber said, ‘This is good for the soul of the viewer.’ The Lilly Endowment brought forth 10 million dollars so we have had over 30 million dollars for projects. Today there are over 160 projects that have been approved. And it requires match. Twenty-six million dollars of those thirty million have been allocated and it’s generated over 35 million dollars in match. There are more projects on board and we will probably exhaust the trust fund in the next few months, so there may be projects that will be backlogged and we will fund them as we find funds through our partners around the state.”

Bortner closed out the morning ceremony by saying, “When I think back on my life and how Indiana State Parks have played such a pivotal role, it is my sincere hope that each and every Hoosier feels the same kinship with these special places that I do. For the next 12 months, Indiana will be on a world stage as we celebrate the State’s Bicentennial, our Centennial, and the National Parks Service centennial. Take the time to get outside and enjoy what is your birthright as Hoosiers. Colonel Lieber got it right ladies and gentleman, so let’s celebrate that.”

State Parks all across Indiana will continue the celebration through 2016 with a variety of special events. For more information on dates and locations, go to www.INState- Parks100.com.

Learn more about Indiana’s bicentennial at www.indiana2016.org.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2015-12-22 digital edition