Boat ramp in Deer Run Park provides Salt Creek access

Brown County’s Deer Run Park now has a boat ramp, courtesy of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The ramp, on Salt Creek to the north of the baseball diamonds, includes a gravel parking area and a concrete pad for handicapped parking.

The access point provides easier launching for kayaks, canoes and similar small watercraft than was previously available in the county, said Brown County Parks and Recreation Director Mark Shields.

This may be the first ramp the DNR has placed on a creek, he said. Previous ramps have been installed on lakes or larger waterways such as the Wabash River.

As part of a four-year lease signed by the Brown County Commissioners in August 2015, the DNR takes all responsibility for the ramp and parking area aside from debris removal, Shields told the commissioners.

It also means the ramp will be maintained at no cost to the county, and that Shields can call on state officers to investigate any problems such as a recently stolen sign, he said.

The DNR’s intent is to renew the lease for the next 20 years, Shields told the commissioners.

Long time coming

Since he first started as parks and recreation director about six years ago, Shields has wanted to connect the local community — especially youth — to the waterway that flows through their backyards, he said.

“I think it’s kind of cool to have this, because Salt Creek’s been here forever, and there’s just very limited access points for people,” he said.

Shields sees the improved access as an opportunity to teach locals about the life in the creek, about the environment and about their effect on it, he said.

With the help of a $1,718 gift from the Brown County Community Foundation, the parks and rec department was able to purchase two canoes, three kayaks, paddles and life jackets.

Shields had hoped to use that equipment to offer some kind of program for area youth this fall, but the timing on completion of the ramp prevented that.

However, he expects to integrate the ramp and equipment into parks and rec’s offerings next year. He is also looking into the possibility of creating an equipment rental program or partnering with a private company to provide such a service.

Backyard waterway

Shields first found out about the DNR program — which pays for and maintains boat ramps in communities around the state — through his involvement with the Salt Creek Preservation Group, he said.

Salt Creek is considered navigable from the bridge on State Road 135 South all the way to Lake Monroe — though some portage may be necessary to get around log jams or fallen trees.

Ultimately, Shields would like to see a tie-in to Monroe County and mutual cooperation to develop an open stream trail to Lake Monroe.

A paddle trip from Deer Run to Lake Monroe would take about two days, he estimated.

For shorter trips, the nearest regularly-used access point to the creek right now is off Green Valley Road — though there is no official access there, he said. The Salt Creek Preservation Group is looking into additional funding for developing that or another access point up or downstream from Deer Run.

When Salt Creek is slow moving, it is possible to simply make a return trip against the current, or start out against the current and take the easier way back to the Deer Run boat ramp, Shields said.

Shields also plans to develop a way to inform the public on the conditions and navigability of the creek.

One possibility is to link information from the U.S. Geological Survey site, which monitors the North Fork of Salt Creek, to the parks and rec website, he said. Parks and rec may also post warning signs for days when the creek is particularly hazardous.

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.