November 1, 2022
The Hamilton County community has been made the beneficiary of significant funding issued to Hamilton County Parks and Recreation (HCPR) by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) through the state agency’s recently created Indiana Stream and Wetland Mitigation Program (IN SWMP), an In-Lieu Fee Mitigation Program. The program facilitates the restoration, establishment, enhancement and/or preservation of aquatic resources through fees paid to the DNR to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements.
The DNR allocated $800,000 of the fees generated through the program, to the county parks department to ensure conservation and protection of recently acquired land in northwest Hamilton County. To receive the funding, the 107 acres of property, known as HC Farms, was required to meet the program’s stringent conservation criteria.
HCPR and DNR personnel understood that the funding issued through the program would require attention to detail and an ongoing collaboration between the county parks department, the state agency and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to make sure that the necessary guidelines were followed. “It required a great deal of patience from all parties involved, knowing that the foundation for future such funding was being formed during this process,” stated Tom Laycock, Director of the DNR Division of Land Acquisition, which runs the program.
As land throughout the county is being rapidly rezoned and developed for both commercial and residential use, county officials and park leadership felt it was imperative to secure this property, knowing it holds the potential to provide county residents and visitors with a distinctive park experience. With the involvement of state partners and agencies, such as the DNR, land such as this - previously impacted by development and farming - has the potential to be restored and protected for the natural benefits it offers not only today, but for generations to come.
HCPR Director, Chris Stice, praised the importance of securing the funding “Hamilton County Parks feels blessed to be able to procure and preserve this ecological asset on behalf of our county and community,” Stice said. “The department’s intent is to restore the property’s wetlands and stream corridor and expand the existing prairie. Appropriate reforestation measures will also be taken. We are looking to strategically develop and maintain trails on the property, as well. By restoring the quality of the land’s natural habitat, we are remaining true to our departmental mission of providing high quality passive parks and serving as responsible stewards of the land entrusted to us.”
HCPR’s leadership team is working with its parks board and a professional consulting firm to identify the best use of the land, consistent with the parks department’s mission. Part of the planning will include soliciting community feedback through a variety of communication channels, including public meetings. No timeline for work on the project has been set yet.
To learn more about Hamilton County Parks, visit MyHamiltonCountyParks.com, follow the park department on Facebook or call 317-770-4400. Detailed information about the importance and purpose of the DNR In-Lieu Fee Mitigation Program is at IN.gov/inswmp.