by Jim Eagleman
A generous bequest from a devoted park visitor recently finished the funding for a Brown County State Park Friends group project. The visitor, Mary Platt Oxford, wanted a shelter built for visitors to use. The new structure, located near the Brown County State Park Nature Center, will be finished this month according to Chris Todd, Brown County High School’s building trades teacher. The open-air shelterhouse, just north of the Nature Center, will be used for Friends events including the annual May spring plant sale and Morel Mushroom Festival. Park nature center events, programs, and workshops will also be held in the spacious structure.
“We’re pleased it will serve visitors at an outside site when weather is calm, and also provide a place under cover when it isn’t,” reports Doug Baird, the park’s Property Manager.
A project this size was not decided quickly. It took much planning over several years and included the DNR’s Division of Engineering for final construction plan approval. “We knew we wanted to follow similar plans like the other shelters for a rustic, outdoor structure”, says then Friends president Don Stephenson. “But the first order of business was to purchase a band saw for the park.”
Utilizing large trees destined for removal due to safety considerations, upright beams, roof rafters, and eventual roof decking boards were supplied from park trees using the portable band saw. It was donated in 2013. Funds for the saw came from Friends’ fundraiser activities, memberships, and the annual Haunted Trail event. “Park staff can now use the saw for many projects. It’s a useful tool,” adds Stephenson.
A large 36’ x 42’ concrete slab was poured in spring of 2013. It provided a firm footing for the plant sale that year, but the sale still required the use of a large Division of State Parks white tent. While the tent provided an eye-catching landmark for many park events, it had to be secured from another property, requiring pick-up, set up/take down, and return.
Since fall of 2014, two classes met daily with Mr. Todd who conferred frequently with Friends members and park staff for work schedules and supplies. Classes required instruction on how to use safety measures with various tools, construct and set rafters, and apply shingles. Hopes are these students will learn an important trade that will help in career plans. “I believe the boys learned a lot”, says Todd.
“That is similar to how the CCC boys were honored,” said a long-time visitor and granddaughter of a CCC worker, viewing the structure this summer. “My granddad took me to a park where he worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. He was so happy and proud of the work they did.”
Perhaps the high school students can return to this shelter someday to show their families the work they completed when in the class. In the meantime, watch for Friends events and park programs held at this impressive structure. “It is a wonderful place to offer programs to our visitors”, says Kevin Snyder, the park’s Assistant Property Manager. “It will be a nice gift to the citizens of Indiana as we celebrate Indiana State Parks centennial in 2016.”