Children of Indiana Nature Park Updates
Visit www.ilovemyland.org to claim your square foot of land!
Story by the Palladium Item.
They might not have heard of Centerville, but kids from all over Indiana will own a piece of land there.
A new long-term state environmental stewardship program starts at 11:30 a.m. Saturday with a visit from Indiana first lady Karen Pence, wife of Gov. Mike Pence.
As part of the The Children of Indiana Nature Park, every Hoosier student now entering kindergarten through Grade 12 will have a stake in the protection and stewardship of 1 square foot of a 28-acre property owned by Cope Environmental Center.
That’s 1.2 million school age children in Indiana who will be deeded a piece of land in the park.
“The park is going to be built by kids, owned by kids and protected by kids,” said Kyle King, Cope’s community outreach coordinator
The park is across from Cope’s south entrance.
Those who want to attend Saturday’s dedication are to make an advance reservation by calling Cope staff at (765) 855-3188. Parking is limited and carpooling is encouraged.
Cope will distribute 100 deeds to the K-12 students of Indiana on a first-come-first-served basis. All other students can print their deeds from ilovemyland.org starting Saturday.
Kids can go to the interactive website Saturday or anytime afterward, find their coordinates and zoom in to see their square foot of land.
The nature park is a public-private partnership between Cope, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Education, Whitewater Valley Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy’s Indiana chapter.
Although the park celebrates Indiana’s bicentennial, “it’s going to last way beyond this year,” King said.
Cope staff hope to make nature conservation more real to students through the land deeds and combining kids’ love of technology with nature. They are planning in-person events such as tree planting, invasive species removal and trivia to connect students with the land.
Trails already go through the children’s park, but a future goal is to develop new trails that are accessible to those with disabilities, King said.
The park’s partners will offer online education for those who can’t get to Centerville at ilovemyland.org and a network of 18 bicentennial nature centers around the state.
Every Hoosier student is to be within 60 miles of one of those centers. Students can visit one of the centers to get a printed land deed and learn from curriculum that Cope staff and friends have written about conservation.
The park project has many goals. Organizers want to encourage kids to get outside to improve their health. They also hope the project teaches conservation and the responsibility of ownership.
The idea for deeding land to children might spread to other locations. Mary McConnell, director for The Nature Conservancy’s Indiana Chapter, gave a TEDx talk about the children’s park that could lead to its implementation elsewhere.
And the opportunity to see their child’s piece of land might eventually draw families from around the state to see Cope’s new environmental education center that is being constructed.
Cope is building a sustainable environmental education center that will offer more space for environmental programs, community gatherings and promote sustainable living in east-central Indiana.
The welcome center is to have a natural playground that offers sensory play.
Cope aims to have the new facility certified under the Living Building Challenge, which is said to be the most rigorous green building standards in the world. Only 11 buildings around the world have reached Living Building certification.
Gov. Pence visited Cope in October 2013 to announce the creation of the Bicentennial Legacy Conservation Area. The area extends from Cope Environmental Center at the north end to Brookville Reservoir, which is managed by Indiana Department of Natural Resources, at the south end.
In between are Whitewater Memorial State Park (managed by DNR), five state-designated nature preserves owned and managed by Whitewater Valley Land Trust, and numerous private landholdings.
The Bicentennial Legacy Conservation Area in Wayne, Union and Franklin counties is the signature project of the Bicentennial Nature Trust. The trust was created to preserve and protect important conservation and recreation areas across the state in preparation for Indiana’s bicentennial.
If you go
• What: Children of Indiana Nature Park Gifting Ceremony
• When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 18.
• Where: Cope Environmental Center, 4910 Shoemaker Road, Centerville.
• Cost: Free, parking is limited and carpooling is highly encouraged.
• Register: (765) 855-3188.
• Information: copeenvironmental.org/indianas-bicentennial-initiatives-cec.
• Before the children’s park kickoff, a Nature Play Day creek hike for ages 4-12 will take place from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m. Saturday at Cope. The cost is $5 per child. Register by 4 p.m. Thursday at (765) 855-3188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The annual Environmental Education Association of Indiana conference is taking place Friday through Sunday at Cope and Earlham College in Richmond. Learn more at eeai.org/2016-Conference.
• In partnership with Cope, Richmond Art Museum is hosting “The Nature of Art: Painted Parks,” an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project, at the museum at 350 Hub Etchison Parkway. The show features 70 paintings by noted Indiana plein air artist Rick Wilson depicting Indiana’s 24 state parks and eight reservoirs. The exhibit also honors the 100th anniversary of the Indiana parks system. It will be open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through July 16.