Writer / Connie Sieferman

Photography / Parks Foundation of Hendricks County

“Local parks are among the top three amenities that a family looks for when making a move to a new area,” says Meghan Stritar, Marketing and Events Manager for the Parks Foundation of Hendricks County.

“They gravitate toward outdoor events and recreational facilities. We are fortunate to have a rich supply of town, township and county parks here in Hendricks County.”

Building, maintaining and enhancing those spaces is a significant economic task for a community dedicated to providing quality recreational opportunities. In 2009, Hendricks County Parks and Recreation recognized the need to create a fundraising partner to offset the increasing strain on the county budget. The Parks Foundation was formed that year with the goal of raising private and corporate funds to develop resources and programs for our Hendricks County Parks while at the same time preserving public green space.

“There are misconceptions about what a parks department actually needs, as opposed to merely wants,” Stritar says. “The public doesn’t always realize that their taxes do not necessarily pay for enhancements to their local parks. Public services are all vying for the same funds. For instance, a local park system recently wanted to add a water feature to their dog park. They did their own fundraiser to gather donations toward that project.”

The Parks Foundation is in a state of transition at present. Traditionally, the group has focused on four different outdoor venues:  McCloud Nature Park, Sodalis Nature Park, the Vandalia Trail Park and the soon-to-be-constructed W.S. Gibbs Park. The Gibbs project is 140 acres in Washington Township that will include a nature playground, pavilion, restrooms, hiking trails and a bike playground. The nine-member board of the Foundation has just recently voted to upgrade their mission to include all Hendricks County Parks. Their goal is to bring their past successes to other local parks in Hendricks County. Stritar shares that “we love the idea that we are going to work toward the goal of giving back to these community parks. The individual departments do so much for so little.”

A popular event coming up before long is the “Summer Fun Run Series.” The Foundation is committed to increasing the recreation and fitness opportunities throughout Hendricks County, so this activity is a natural fit. This summer, the Foundation — along with multiple partners in the various town park departments and townships — will provide a series of 12 free fun runs in different parks. Every Wednesday, from early June to late August, runners and walkers are invited to complete one of two pre-set courses of different lengths at the designated site. These are non-timed run and walk courses that can be enjoyed by the whole family. There will be a kick-off event at the county fairgrounds to set the pace for the upcoming season. At each run, park staff and volunteers will be present to assist participants and answer questions. The host parks will be clearly marked with both courses. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the local facilities and get to know the work of the Parks Foundation.

“We see it as a great way to connect with the community and share ways we can partner to enhance the parks for all to enjoy,” Stritar says. “About 6,000 people enjoy the fun runs each year. We want to meet the community in these beautiful spaces and share the mission of the Foundation and our efforts to preserve our county parks.”

Of particular interest in 2019 is that the new White Lick Creek Trail will be the site of one of the fun runs.

Donations to the Foundation are always welcome. You can make arrangements for monthly donations or a one-time gift. Many of the most committed supporters choose to become “Friends of the Parks Foundation of Hendricks County.” These individuals are recognized on the Foundation website and invited to special events. An annual picnic for the “Friends” is held at McCloud Nature Park, and it provides a special opportunity for donors to enjoy McCloud’s six miles of hiking trails. Volunteers are always welcome, too.

Those who have a passion for history, the out-of-doors or working with children can find a variety of different volunteer opportunities waiting for them within the Parks Foundation. If you want to know more about the work of the organization or how you can donate or volunteer, visit them online at pfohc.org.

“The Foundation would like for the local park employees to continue to focus on what they do best, coordinate programs and events, maintain the parks and plan new parks for us all to enjoy,” Stritar adds.

“We hope to take just a little off of their plates by partnering to add new features that will keep the community coming together through our wonderful parks. We would love to see legacy gifts, whereby a loved one is memorialized with a gift of flowers or greenery to a favorite park or recreational space. We are grateful for any and all donations. What drives me is the commitment of local park employees and what they do with the little they have. Their world is all about doing a lot with a little.”

Thanks to the mission of the Foundation, our local park system will get a boost of financial help to enhance their cultural, recreational and natural resources.