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Bicentennial Nature Trust projects approved


Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and Congressman Lee Hamilton, co-chairs of Indiana’s Bicentennial Commission, have announced the approval of 12 new Bicentennial Nature Trust projects to the ongoing conservation initiative. Among those on the list is the LaGrange County Parks Department, that will receive help to purchase 44 acres adjacent to Dallas Lake Park.

The Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT) is a statewide program aimed at expanding trails, wetlands and recreation sites to help celebrate Indiana’s 200 years of statehood in 2016. The state park system was created during Indiana’s centennial celebration in 1916, and BNT projects will provide a similar legacy for generations of Hoosiers.

The LaGrange County Parks Department has been working to secure the additional acreage at Dallas Lake Park, which will encompass the remainder of Pond Lil and the surrounding wetland area. Areas that have been tilled for farming will be restored to an oak savannah area, with a planned trail winding through the park.

The award is for $181,500 and will be used to pay back the LaGrange County Community Foundation, which purchased the land to secure it for the county.  It was noted that the area would be dedicated as a state nature preserve to obtain the grant funding.

The latest selections total nearly 2,000 acres and include former Gov. Edgar Whitcomb’s secluded retreat on the banks of the Ohio River in Perry County, a 16-acre expansion of Wilderness Park in Blackford County, 140 acres on Eel River in Miami County, 110 acres at Lake Everett in Allen County, and a 704-acre addition to Yellowwood State Forest.

“The Bicentennial Nature Trust initiative continues to accept a wide range of projects to solidify Indiana’s conservation legacy,” Lt. Gov. Skillman said. “These gifts of forests, trails and wetlands will be accessible to all Hoosiers for many generations.”

“As we continue moving forward in our plans for the state’s Bicentennial celebration in 2016, it is encouraging to see the level of participation for our first initiative,” Congressman Hamilton stated. “Hoosiers have taken a strong interest in preserving Indiana acreage and I look forward to their suggestions for future conservation projects.”

The BNT projects are awarded through state funding and private donations. The 12 new projects received a total of more than $2.4 million. Projects will continue to be announced until the state fund runs out.

BNT was first announced by Gov. Mitch Daniels during his 2012 State of the State Address. Co-chairs Skillman and Hamilton honored the request by starting a statewide campaign to acquire property that protects conservation and recreation areas throughout the state.

The state has increased the amount of public recreational lands by 44,000 acres since 2005. And the Healthy Rivers Initiative (HRI), started in 2009, will add nearly 70,000 acres of river corridors in two areas – Sugar Creek and the Wabash River in west-central Indiana, and Muscatatuck River bottoms in south-central Indiana. Indiana has also quadrupled the amount of land available for conservation under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to 26,250 acres.

The state is seeking additional private donations of land and money as well as input from communities on viable projects.