Drawing of a compass with needle pointing North.

About the Park

The Children of Indiana Nature Park (Park) is a Signature Project of Indiana’s Bicentennial Celebration. It is a special gift of the outdoors to you and future generations.

With this gift, we want you to be more connected to nature. We hope that this connection will instill in you a sense of wonder about the natural world, help you to improve your health and well being, and ultimately inspire a desire to conserve and protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends.

If you wish to contact us with questions, comments, or concerns click here.

  • Visit the Park
  • Why a Nature Park?
  • Park Creation
  • Park Partners
  • Park FAQ's

Getting to the Children of Indiana Nature Park

The Children of Indiana Nature Park is located on the Cope Environmental Center property, in the eastern part of Indiana near Centerville. From US 40, head south on Airport Road for approximately 1 mile to Shoemaker Road, and turn right. The parking area for the Cope Environmental Center and the Children of Indiana Nature Park is located on the north side (to the right) approximately 0.1 miles from Airport Road, and has this address:

Cope Environmental Center
1730 Airport Road
Centerville, IN 47330

Shoemaker Road borders the property to the north, and Airport Road borders to the east.

The Park is open from dawn until dusk.  If you are a teacher or group leader and would like to plan a visit the Children of Indiana Nature Park for your class or group, please contact the Cope Environmental Center by calling (765) 855-3188 or emailing a.blue@copeenvironmental.org.

Can't visit the Park?

That's OK! There are opportunites for nature engagement near you. Visit one of our Bicentennial Nature Center Network locations instead!

Activities to do at the Park

Indiana has 92 counties and more than 1,000,000 students in grades K-12, and every student with a Nature IN-Deed has claim to their spot in the Park. That means you share this land with LOTS of other kids, so we grouped your land together with your neighbors and classmates in your county.

Cope Environmental Center is applying for grants to expand the trail system within the Park. New trails will allow more kids to get closer to their spots in the Park. Click here for a map with the county locations plus current and future trails.

Until then, get as close as you can to your spot using your GPS coordinates. We know it's tough, but please stay on the trails (even if your piece of land is far away). Sometimes protecting nature means leaving it alone! Here is a downloadable packet to get you started with fun activities to do at the Park including how to use the GPS coordinates to find your spot in the Park and a Nature Treasure Hunt!

Why a Nature Park?

Children are spending less time outdoors and less time enjoying free play.  Pediatricians recommend that kids between the ages of 8 and 16 spend no more than 2 hours viewing electronic screens (smart phones, tablets, computers, etc.) each day. Unfortunately,most kids spend more than the two-hour daily limit.  According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, kids are spending more than 40 hours a week on their devices - more than a full-time job!

Why is this bad? Research is showing that the effects of being so “plugged in” include childhood obesity, nearsightedness, decreased family time, and lack of knowledge about the natural world around them. According to the Solutions Journal, young children can recognize over 1,000 corporate logos, but few can identify more than a handful of local plant or animal species.

Outdoor Bill of Rights

To address these concerns, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) created the Hoosier Child’s Outdoor Bill of Rights.  The Children of Indiana Nature Park project builds on these rights by dedicating a natural place for the children of Indiana to call their own.

The Idea

The idea behind the Park and the inspiration for rebooting our children’s interest in nature is shared in this TedX Indianapolis Talk by Mary McConnell, the State Director of the Nature Conservancy in Indiana. The Nature Conservancy - and our Park Partners at the Cope Environmental Center, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Education - believe that nature and people can thrive together and that we must take care of nature so that nature can take care of us.  With this in mind, we have created The Children of Indiana Nature Park to help reconnect our children to nature and to provide the opportunity for Hoosier children to learn about the importance of conservation, not only for the plants and animals, but for people, too.  

For more references describing the benefits spending time in nature (and the consequences of not having contact with nature), please visit the excellent library of The Children & Nature Network.
Bicentennial Logo

How the Park Came To Be

Indiana’s 2016 Bicentennial celebration aims to honor our state’s 200 years of history, but do so in a modern way that engages all 6.5 million Hoosiers and leaves a lasting legacy for future generations. The State’s Bicentennial Commission was appointed and tasked with the coordination and oversight of the milestone celebration. Governor Mike Pence continues with enthusiastic support of the Commission’s work, and First Lady Karen Pence serves as the official Bicentennial Ambassador.

In 1916, the State of Indiana authorized the creation of a state park system during the state’s centennial as a gift to the people of Indiana. In anticipation of Indiana’s 200th anniversary in 2016 as well as the 100th anniversary of our state park system, former Governor Mitch Daniels announced the Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT) in his 2012 State of the State Address as a new statewide effort. The BNT was created to preserve and protect important conservation and recreation areas throughout Indiana by matching donations of land or dollars. Property acquired with this fund will become part of the public trust to ensure that the land is protected for future generations of Hoosiers to use and enjoy.

The state identified $20 million in state funding to support the BNT, and the Lilly Endowment contributed an additional $10 million grant. The BNT encourages local participation, so each project required a 1:1 match. The match could be provided by a community foundation, local non-profit or philanthropic organizations, private or corporate donors, or a bargain sale. The program’s flexibility allows local ownership and management of acquired properties. In these instances, the state purchases a Conservation Easement to protect the property forever. This program allowed the collaborative partnership necessary to create the Children of Indiana Nature Park project.

Located within the Bicentennial Legacy Whitewater Valley Conservation Area, the Children of Indiana Nature Park is part of a regional and strategic conservation effort being coordinated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.  In addition, Red Tail Land Conservancy owns a conservation easement to the Children of Indiana Nature Park property.

The Park represents an innovative approach to the preservation and protection of important conservation and recreation areas, and specifically aims to connect the children of Indiana and future generations to the state's natural areas.  The State of Indiana and Bicentennial Commission enthusiastically approved of the creation of the park as a Signature Project of Indiana’s 2016 Bicentennial celebration.

A Team Effort

The Children of Indiana Nature Park represents an innovative approach to the preservation and protection of important conservation and recreation areas in Indiana. The Park was formed by several organizations. The partners who make this Bicentennial Signature Project possible include:
Bicentennial Legacy Project Logo

Bicentennial Nature Center Network

These parks and conservation advocates from around the state are able to teach the Bicentennial Nature Center Network curriculum listed on this website, and have staff that lead environmental education programs.  They will be excited to host you and your groups.  View the Bicentennial Nature Center Network participants, download the Bicentennial Nature Center Network list or download the Bicentennial Nature Center Network map to find a park near you!
Cope Environmental Center logo

Cope Environmental Center

The Cope Environmental Center (Cope) owns and maintains the grounds of the Park, which is located adjacent to other Cope properties.  Each year, Cope receives and educates more than 10,000 kids and adults who visit to deepen their understanding of the natural world through hands-on experiences.  Soon, Cope will open its new nature center.  This new, highly sustainable building will feature large classrooms and meeting space for schools or youth groups on field trips or others who may visit from around the state. Learn more about Cope Environmental Center.
The Nature Conservancy logo

The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy (Conservancy) is providing this website as a tool that can help bridge the digital and natural worlds.  The Conservancy is also conducting outreach to educational and youth-serving organizations to invite all K-12 students to participate and claim their gift of nature.  For the physical property, The Conservancy has prepared an Ecological Management Plan for the newly acquired Park property, which will reestablish hardwood forest with a diverse understory of native plants.  The Conservancy will implement the Ecological Management Plan with support from Cope staff and volunteers and look forward to collaborating with Hoosier families and volunteers as we steward the Children of Indiana Nature Park land. Learn more about The Nature Conservancy.
Indiana DNR logo

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) purchased new lands in the Whitewater Valley Conservation Area for conservation and recreation using BNT funds, including the purchase of the conservation easement for the Children of Indiana Nature Park.  DNR collaborated with donors to identify the matching contributions needed for the Park purchase. The DNR team reviewed project proposals and enabled local ownership and management of the property acquired by the Cope Environmental Center. Learn more about the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
 
Indiana Department of Education logo

Indiana Department of Education

The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) is an enthusiastic partner helping to connect kids and nature. IDOE is assisting in communicating with Indiana’s school superintendents and principals and also in making curriculum valuable to classrooms and complementary to the Indiana Academic Standards.  Participating schools will roll out the program, distribute deeds using this project website platform, and introduce students to nature. Learn more about the Indiana Department of Education.

FAQ's about the Park

1. What is The Children of Indiana Nature Park?
The Children of Indiana Nature Park is a park of about 30 acres that is being given to Hoosier children as a gift in honor of Indiana’s 200th birthday.  The Park will demonstrate the saying “When we take care of nature, nature takes care of us”.  (See #10 below for information about who made this gift possible).

2. Where is The Children of Indiana Nature Park?
The Children of Indiana Nature Park is in Centerville, which is in the eastern part of the state in Wayne County.  The Park is approximately 6 miles west of Richmond, and about 70 miles east of Indianapolis. Click here for the address.

3. Why was The Children of Indiana Nature Park created?
In modern day Indiana, fewer people are growing up on farms or in rural areas.  The electronic age keeps children indoors and viewing digital media.  Parents have increased concerns about allowing children to play freely outside.  Combined, these factors have caused us to become increasingly disconnected from nature and the wonders of the natural landscape of Indiana.  The Children of Indiana Nature Park is a gift from the project partners that invites Hoosier youth to learn about nature and how to care for the land.

4. Why is being connected to nature so important?
Studies show that children need nature to be healthy.  Kids who spend time outdoors are more physically fit, less stressed, better test takers, more confident, and more creative.  The risk of nearsightedness is reduced for kids who play outdoors.  Dirt has been shown to be beneficial for the health of our youth.  The Children & Nature Network maintains a robust library of the research showing the benefits of reconnecting kids and nature.  We must learn to take care of nature so that nature can take care of us!

5. Who is The Children of Indiana Nature Park for?
The Children of Indiana Nature Park project is a gift to the children of Indiana in this generation and all future generations.  In celebration of Indiana’s Bicentennial, the project invites all K-12 students in Indiana to reconnect to nature first by claiming their honorary deed to the park, then by getting involved with caring for nature.  Parents, teachers, librarians, and youth-group leaders are invited and encouraged to provide the opportunity for all children that they work with to claim their deed and get involved, especially those under the age of 14 so that they are sharing their experiences with an adult they trust.

6. What can kids do at the Children of Indiana Nature Park?
At The Children of Indiana Nature Park, there are many opportunities to connect with nature!  There are mowed trails which can be followed to see the park or to watch wildlife.  Bring your deed, enter the coordinate in your phone mapping app, and then watch how close you get to your spot as you walk the trails.  Visit the Cope Environmental Center and speak with the naturalists there for more ideas on activities such as night hikes, maple syrup making, and camps and outdoor activities.

7. Will I be able to stand on "my land?"
Every Nature-IN Deed holder has claim to a spot in the Park. Due to terrain and conservation needs of the land, not everyone will be able to stand on their exact spot. Get as close as you can as you follow the trail and look around you! There is a lot to explore about the land and knowing you own a part of it makes the encounter that much more meaningful. Great photo opportunities are everywhere in nature. Post of photo of yourself next to the entrance sign or exploring nature near you!

8. What does it mean to receive an honorary (Nature IN-Deed) deed to a spot in the Park?
Through schools, libraries, youth-serving organizations, nature centers, and other community outlets, students will be able to obtain a deed with a unique coordinate in the park. This means that each student with a deed will have “claim” to a specific spot in the Park that can be visited in person or virtually on this website. Once you have the deed, it is yours to hold on to and pass it down to younger siblings or even future children so generations to come will continue to have this special connection with nature.

9. I am unable to visit the Park.  How can I participate?
The Park’s website will have a digital map that will allow you to plug-in your unique coordinates from your deed and zoom in to virtually see where your spot of land is in the Park. Visiting this website also allows you to keep up with what is happening at the Park such as what animals and plants have been spotted lately so you can stay informed even if you are unable to visit in person. Contests will be announced on the website that are designed for all to participate regardless of where you live in Indiana.

10. Are there nature places near me that I can visit?
Yes – if you live in Indiana, there are nature centers near you!  The Bicentennial Nature Center Network was formed to ensure that Hoosier children who wish to experience nature and claim their deed will be no more than 60 miles from a nature center, no matter where they live in Indiana. 

11. Who made The Children of Indiana Nature Park possible?
The Children of Indiana Nature Park Project is a Signature Project of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission. The Children of Indiana Nature Park project was formed by a group of partners who believe that re-establishing a connection to nature is vital to the health and well-being of children, their families, and their communities. The partners seek to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders who will protect our lands and water for people and nature.  Led by The Nature Conservancy, the core partners include The Cope Environmental Center, The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the Indiana Department of Education.

12. Why should my child/student/I participate in The Children of Indiana Nature Park project?
Participating in The Children of Indiana Nature Park project means being a part of history, while learning to care for the land. This park was created for Indiana’s Bicentennial and to celebrate Hoosier children and nature. Each participant will have the opportunity to connect to nature in a personal way by receiving their deed, by visiting the Park in person or virtually, and by gaining more knowledge about our natural world.  Helping young Hoosiers connect to nature will ensure that future generations understand the importance of nature to our health and well-being, and that we can be stewards of both healthy environments and healthy people through our care for the land.

13. How do I get to The Children of Indiana Nature Park?
The Park is located in the eastern part of the state near Centerville. Shoemaker Road borders the property to the north, and Airport Road borders to the east. From US 40, head south on Airport Road for approximately 1 mile, and the entrance to the new Cope Environmental Center will be on the right.

To go directly to The Children of Indiana Nature Park (instead of visiting the Cope Environmental Center Visitor and Education Center), continue south until Shoemaker Road, and turn right.  The parking area for the Park is located on the north side (to the right) and has the following address:
1730 Airport Road
Centerville, IN 47330

14.If I want to visit the Children of Indiana Nature Park and make a day of it, are there other nature attractions nearby?
Yes – a couple of close “nature” attractions include:

Cope Environmental Center which is immediately north of the Park property. The Cope Environmental Center includes 102 acres of land with over three miles of hiking trails and a new Sustainable Living Education Center. Open 365 days a year from dawn to dusk.
1730 Airport Road
Centerville, IN 47330

The Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary located in Connersville, IN which about 30 minutes southwest of the Park. The Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary is also the headquarters for the Indiana Audubon Society. The Sanctuary is more than 700 acres and is open to everyone. Walk the trails, rent a building, and learn about what research is happening at the Sanctuary. Open 365 days a year from dawn to dusk.
3499 S Bird Sanctuary Rd
Connersville, IN 47331

Wildman Woods owned by Earlham College located in Richmond, IN just a short drive from Earlham College and about 15 minutes from the Park. This area has beautiful hiking trails, but is managed and maintained by Earlham’s Biology department so special permission is required before visiting.