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Nature’s Best By Elma Chapman - Delt Church Park

Have you been to Delt Church Park recently? If you haven’t, you are in for a very pleasant surprise. A new hiking trail was just put in this past year. It is crushed limestone, very hard-packed, which makes for easy walking and accessibility for wheelchairs. There are wooden boardwalks or bridges to cross wet areas. This past week the wildflowers were beautiful!

The Friends of the LaGrange County Parks had their May “meeting” at Delt Church. I put meeting in quotation marks because it was more of an excursion than a meeting. We conducted business for 20 minutes in the pavilion, and then Randy Baumgartner explained the disc golf course to us. After that we went for a hike. It made for a very nice evening.

If you don’t know what those funny-looking wire baskets are in the park, that’s the disc golf course. (Some people have speculated that they are deer feeders!) There are tees marked on the ground where you throw your disc from in the direction of the basket. Usually the disc is not going to land exceptionally close to the basket on the first throw, unless you’re a practiced disc golfer. So you stand where it landed and throw again. Eventually you’re close enough to hit the chains, which will make the disc drop into the basket. Just like in golf, the low score wins, except instead of counting strokes you’re counting throws. Then you tee off to the next basket.

Disc golf can be played with a regular Frisbee or similar flying disc, but serious disc golfers purchase special discs, just like golfers have putters and drivers. And Randy cautioned us that if you’re throwing across a pond or other wetland, make sure you’re using a disc that floats! There were several bullfrogs and green frogs serenading us while Randy delivered his presentation. Or maybe they were just laughing at our feeble attempts to hit the basket, when Randy let us practice using his special discs.

Eventually there will be a sign up by the parking area that shows the layout of the course and explains the rules. But you’re welcome to go out with an ordinary flying disc and shoot around the course any time. They even have a tournament planned for later this summer.

We only walked a fraction of the new hiking trail, but it certainly is nice. It runs through most of the park and covers a variety of habitats, from woodland to wetland to prairie. Along the way we saw trillium, wild geraniums, wild phlox, spring beauty, and jack-in-the-pulpits. Unfortunately we also saw a bit of garlic mustard, which is an invasive species, one of the very few plants that not only are you allowed to pick, but you are encouraged to pick even in a natural area. Especially in a natural area. We did pull up some, but we left some for you.

Of course, the playground is still there, as are the picnic tables and pavilions. The park is enhanced by its proximity to the Little Elkhart River. (You know, if there weren’t so many snags in the river downstream, I could put my kayak in at the park and canoe home to River Bend Park in Middlebury! Maybe someday . . .?)

In all, the park encompasses 119 acres and is a great facility to have in LaGrange County. Come on out and enjoy it soon!

And I’ll close with a bit of advertisement: There is an Indiana Master Naturalist course coming up this summer, held at the Gene Stratton Porter Historical Site in Rome City. The class will meet on Thursdays from June 19 – August 21, from 6-9 p.m. Topics covered will be trees, native wildflowers, insects, birds and more. For more information contact Tiffany Conrad, tconrad@indianamuseum.org or call her at 260-854-3790. Registration is required by June 1, so don’t wait! And the Elkhart County Parks are offering a Junior Indiana Master Naturalist course for kids from 9-13 years old. It’s a day camp from June 9-13 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. daily. For information on that program, contact Krista Daniels at Krista@elkhartcountyparks.org or 574-875-7422.

I hope you’re getting outside to enjoy this fine weather we’ve all waited for for so long!