The LaGrange County Soil & Water Conservation District is extremely fortunate to own and operate Par-Gil Natural Resources Learning Center. Par-Gil was a 40 acre Christmas tree farm run by Charles Park and Paul Gilman. After they were retiring from the business, the land was donated to the District for conservation and environmental education by former area teachers Paul and Evelyn Gilman in 1991. It is located two and a half miles north of LaGrange on the east side of State Road 9. Programs on soil, water, forestry and wildlife have been available through the SWCD for students and adults.
Par-Gil is a wildlife habitat, a maturing forest and an environmental classroom. The facility has the main Barn which has a meeting room, small kitchen, storage area and water testing lab. The LaGrange County SWCD uses Par-Gil for their monthly meetings. Directly in front of the Barn is the flagpole garden that was planted by Brittnie Kitchen for her Girl Scout Gold Award. There are a number of walking trails and driving trails throughout the property. Several of these trails were developed and marked by several Boy Scout Eagle projects. Just south of the Barn is the Dunkel Shelter. The shelter has benches and picnic tables that are used for elementary programs and a fire pit for campfires and cooking. A hand water pump is also at this location.
As you travel further east of the shelter, there is a pond. The SWCD has used the pond area for wetlands and macroinverterbrate studies for third, sixth and seventh grade students. If you come back to the west a little and then head north, there is an outdoor classroom along a wetlands area. We have used this for wetlands and Smokey Bear programs. To the east of the classroom is an open field. This area has been used for annual ATV training and certification by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). In the last two years, we have also sponsored an Indiana Soil Conservationists conference on soil quality.
Walking the trails, you will recognize 25 to 30 different tree species. We have many of these marked for the public. Wildlife abounds throughout Par-Gil. There are deer and rabbits. Just a week ago, we had about twelve to fifteen wild turkeys waltz by the flagpole garden. Bird watchers have had good luck in finding and identifying a wide variety birds. The trails are maintained by clearing of fallen trees and debris but most of Par-Gil is left to follow nature’s course.
Par-Gil is not a public park, but the public is encouraged to visit and use Par-Gil’s trails through contacting the LaGrange County SWCD office at 463-3471 extension 3 or Par-Gil at 463-6390. Educational activities for 2013 have included wetlands programs for third graders, Smokey Bear programs for kindergarten and first graders, Conservation Day Camp, Boy Scout troop outings, ATV training and several Amish school outings. LaGrange County is blessed with this property and the SWCD encourages anyone interested in Par-Gil to contact us.