The Importance of Public Access

A parking lot may not sound like something that is important to conservation, but in a time when most people drive to their destinations, parking is a necessity. Without a legal parking area, outdoor enthusiasts run the risk of returning to their vehicles to find they have been ticketed or towed. How can people experience the wonders of outdoor recreation and care about the conservation of public lands if they are unable to access these places?

The Indiana Natural Resources Foundation and the Indiana Muskie Club recently worked in partnership with the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife to purchase land along Kuhn Lake in northeast Indiana to solve the parking problem for local boaters and fishermen. The solution was to create a legal parking area for outdoor enthusiasts.

The funds provided by INRF for this project were raised through the Northeast Indiana Conservation Partnership & Preservation Banquet, which works with the goal to permanently protect natural areas across northeast Indiana through land acquisition and the improvement of properties with a DNR interest.

Prior to the addition of the parking area, boaters and fishermen had difficulty finding nearby places to park, which limited locals’ and residents’ access to the lake.

“This parking lot allows more boaters to utilize the Barbie Chain of Lakes without parking illegally, getting ticketed or even towed away,” said Sean Bergsma, treasurer of the Indiana Muskie Club.

The patch of land where the gravel lot is located is 0.68 acres, and it was purchased with an agreement to plant trees along the property line. The process took more than a year because there were various levels of approval and a construction process to follow.

Wes Zurbrugg, public access maintenance supervisor with the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife said access to public waters can be limited by surrounding private property because DNR is limited to purchasing at fair market value. However, these properties typically sell much higher than fair market value, and they don’t stay on the market for very long.

“That’s where partnerships with organizations like INRF and the Muskie Club help,” Zurbrugg said.

INRF was able to help thanks to generous donors who are passionate about making outdoor recreation available to all Hoosiers.

“We are proud to support outdoor recreational enthusiasts. This project fulfilled a need, and it will allow more people access to fishing and boating in the area,” said Jody Kress, executive director of INRF.

The project was completed and opened to the public in June, and since then has been every day. Visitors can now enjoy the lake without returning to a pricy ticket on their windshields or a visit to the tow yard.