By DEANNE WEAVER, guest columnist
Happy 200th birthday, Indiana. And happy 100th birthday, Indiana state parks. What a gift the state parks were to Indiana 100 years ago!
In the words of the visionary and father of our state park system, Col. Richard Lieber: “In the far-distant year of 2016, state parks would endure as a lasting testament still proclaiming to the people of that generation the wisdom, culture and character of our own time.”
Here we are in that far-distant year of 2016, and our state park system is as beloved and thriving as ever. Col. Lieber would be proud.
When the state parks were formed, the purpose was to provide a place of tranquility, beauty and recreation for all citizens, a playground for all ages.
Join me in celebrating this milestone year by enjoying many of the offerings at state parks all across Indiana, including the crown jewel in our backyard, Brown County State Park.
You can enjoy our parks in many ways this year. More activities are still being planned to celebrate the centennial.
Many of the offerings are opportunities to introduce the outdoors to children for all of the healthy benefits. Children can play outside with the undivided attention of their parents without the usual daily distractions.
Children benefit in many ways by unstructured time in the outdoors:
It helps them move their bodies in ways people were designed to move by running, climbing and swimming, which contributes to a healthy body composition and strengthens their muscles.
They breathe clean air but are introduced to some dirt which may help build their immunity to allergies.
They develop a love and appreciation for the outdoors to help them continue to be active throughout their lives.
Most importantly, the time spent together as a family strengthens the family bonds and will provide them with memories that they will cherish forever.
Here are a couple of the special planned events that are memories waiting to be made:
The Centennial Fitness Challenge: Accumulate 25 miles walking, running, hiking, biking, swimming and even horseback riding (100 miles for horseback riding) inside one of Indiana’s state parks before Nov. 30 to be entered in a drawing for prizes, such as annual passes and inn gift certificates. If you accumulate 100 miles, you will earn a centennial coin. Find more information about it and download the form to track your miles at stateparks.in.gov/5883.htm.
The Hilly Half Marathon: One way you can get your fitness challenge miles is by participating in the Brown County YMCA Hilly Half Marathon on Nov. 12 in Brown County State Park, an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project. There are distances to please almost every runner and walker including a half marathon, 10K and 5K. More info at browncountyymca.org.
The Centennial Geocache Challenge: Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt where participants use a GPS-enabled device or a smartphone app to locate small treasures hidden in public places. The state parks are offering a bingo-style scorecard with different state parks in the squares. Participants try to accumulate five found geocaches in a row by Nov. 6 to qualify for prizes such as centennial coins, camping gift certificates and Cabela’s gift cards. To find out more about this challenge and to print your scorecard, go to instateparks100.com.
These are a few of the centennial events, but you can find many other ways to enjoy our state parks. Pick up the “2016 Indiana Recreation Guide” available at state park offices. This guide lists each state park and describes its amenities. I hope it becomes a well-worn reference for your family.
“Along these quiet trails through these reservations, it is to be expected that the average citizen will find release from the tensions of his over-crowded existence, that the contact with nature will refocus with a clearer lens his perspective on life’s values and that he may counsel with himself to the end that his strengths and confidence are renewed.”
— Col. Richard Lieber
DeAnne Weaver is an American College of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer and fitness instructor at the Brown County Y. Her other “gym” is Brown County State Park, where she enjoys running, mountain biking and hiking. She can be reached at email@example.com.