BY KEN THOMPSON
Growing up in Lafayette during the 1960s and 1970s, I probably took for granted that my family lived between Murdock Park and Columbian Park.
Surely everybody had a basketball court/baseball field almost within eyesight of their house. Or a swimming pool, zoo and kids’ rides just a few blocks away.
Time has taught me that Greater Lafayette is more fortunate than most in having so many parks to enjoy. A few, notably McCaw Park and Prophetstown State Park, have come along since my teenage years.
Here’s a look at the parks you’ll find scattered all over Greater Lafayette.
Prophetstown State Park
History lessons abound at Indiana’s newest state park, located just outside of Battle Ground.
The park’s name is derived from the Native American village located between the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers, established in 1808 by Tecumseh and his brother, who was called The Prophet.
Native Americans hunted and lived along the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers, which serve as boundaries for Prophetstown. Through a partnership with The Farm at Prophetstown, visitors can observe 1920s farm lifestyles and Native American culture. For those who like to walk among nature, there are 900 acres of restored prairie.
There’s also an aquatic center, open Memorial Day through Labor Day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Cost is $5 per person but ages 3 and younger are free.
Gate fees are $8 for cars with Indiana license plates, $10 for out of state plates.
Spread over 40 acres in the heart of Lafayette, Columbian Park has seen many changes over the decades, but the biggest is yet to come.
Loeb Stadium, the home of the Lafayette Jeff High School baseball team and events such as the Colt World Series and professional/semi-pro baseball since it opened in 1940, was recently demolished to make room for a modern baseball stadium that will seat 2,600. The new Loeb Stadium is scheduled to be ready by winter 2021.
Next door to Loeb Stadium is another big draw to Columbian Park. The zoo is home to wildlife such as a bald eagle, a laughing kookaburra and an emu. A new penguin exhibit also is under construction.
Loeb Stadium also is bounded by Tropicanoe Cove water park, which traditionally opens Memorial Day weekend.
Like Prophetstown, there’s also history to be found on the appropriately named Memorial Island. Dedicated in 1949 through the efforts of local patriotic and military organizations, Memorial Island is a permanent reminder of the price paid for our freedom. The tribute honors the men and women from Tippecanoe County who gave their lives defending our nation.
OTHER LAFAYETTE PARKS
Arlington Park, 1635 Arlington Road, is home to a playground, basketball and tennis courts, plus a picnic shelter.
Armstrong Park, 821 Beck Lane, is named in honor of Purdue graduate and first man on the moon Neil Armstrong. The large (30 acres) park has three youth baseball fields, five lighted tennis courts, lighted basketball courts, a playground and for fitness buffs, a 2/3 mile paved trail. Armstrong Park also is home to Castaway Bay aquatic center.
Centennial Park, Sixth and Brown streets, features a playground, basketball court and picnic shelter.
Hanna Park, 1201 N. 18th St., is located adjacent to the Hanna Community Center. It boasts unique playground equipment targeted for children ages 2-5 and 5-12. Hanna Park also is home to a basketball court and picnic shelter.
Tucked inside a north side neighborhood, Hedgewood Park, 2902 Beverly Lane, features plenty of green space and a playground.
Also on the north side, Linnwood Park, 1501 Greenbush St., is home to a basketball court, playground and picnic shelter.
Once home to the world horseshoe championships, Lyboult Sports Park, 1300 Canal Road, still has the horseshoe facility along with three lighted softball fields, a sand volleyball court and basketball courts.
McAllister Park on North Ninth Street is home for model plane enthusiasts and is part of the Wabash Heritage Trail.
As Lafayette’s east side began to grow in the latter part of the 20th century, McCaw Park, 3745 Union St., came into existence thanks to a $70,000 donation from William and Michele McCaw. At first, McCaw Park had three lighted youth baseball fields and a couple of picnic shelters. But in the past few years, a state-of-the-art playground and 12 pickleball courts have been added.
Munger Park, 3505 Greenbush St., also exists today thanks to the generosity of Cinergy-PSI donating the 32 acres and a $100,000 contribution from Thomas and Alice Munger. A one-mile paved trail is surrounded by open space and curves around a pond. Fishing is permitted. There’s also a playground and a 100-seat picnic shelter available for rent.
Back in the heyday of Marion Crawley and Bill Berberian, high school basketball players would spend hours playing at Murdock Park, 2100 Cason St. Thanks to former Purdue standout Brian Cardinal, the remodeled Cardinal Court is still home to future stars. An overlooked feature of Murdock Park is the 39 acres of urban forest located just off 18th Street, one of Lafayette’s busiest streets. What little area isn’t occupied by nearly 40 variety of trees is home to a sled run that operates even when Mother Nature hasn’t provided enough of the white stuff. A challenging disc golf course is located near the Ferry Street border of Murdock Park.
North Darby Park, 14 Darby Lane, features a basketball court and playground.
Tucked away alongside the Wabash River, Shamrock Park, 115 Samford St., is home to Lafayette’s first dog park. As you might expect of a riverfront park, there’s a small boat ramp. The 11-acre park also is home to a basketball court, horseshoes, an outdoor roller hockey rink, picnic areas, a playground and a volleyball court.
Recently renovated, SIA South Tipp Park, located at Third and Fountain streets, features two unique multi-age playgrounds, a half basketball court, a picnic shelter and a misting station.
Sterling Heights Park, 610 Harrington Drive, is Lafayette’s newest park and it has a neighborhood playground feel. There’s plenty of open green space, flower beds and shade trees surrounding the playground and picnic shelter.
Wedged into a corner along Ferry Street in between Erie and Sheridan streets, Stockton Park, 307 Erie St., has a spring-rider for small children, a swing and a picnic shelter.
WEST LAFAYETTE PARKS
Of the properties under the auspices of the West Lafayette Parks and Recreation Dept., the Celery Bog Nature Area is by far the largest. Including the Lilly Nature Center, it occupies 195 of the city’s 464 acres of recreational areas, picnic grounds, nature trails and playgrounds.
Once upon a time, the Celery Bog, 1620 Lindberg Road, was a large vegetable farm. Now it is a sanctuary for rabbits, coyotes, opossums, nearly 120 different species of birds and other small mammals. Much of the acreage is contained by five wetland basins. The Lilly Nature Center features exhibits and educational programs available throughout the year.
Happy Hollow Park, 1301 Happy Hollow Road, is a great location for hiking or walking. There’s the 1-mile paved Trolley Line Trail that will appeal to hikers. Three different footpaths are available as well.
For the younger residents, there are two playgrounds. Older, active residents might enjoy the small softball field. Four picnic shelters have always been popular and available for reservations.
Cumberland Park is far more than the Arni Cohen Memorial softball fields drivers see while traveling on North Salisbury Street. Nearly half of the 62-acre complex is taken up by the Michaud-Sinninger Woods Nature Preserve and the large turf/soccer area.
There are also the community vegetable gardens, two lighted basketball courts, the Pony League baseball field and a volleyball court.
Tapawingo Park, 100 Tapawingo Drive, contains the one-and-a-quarter mile paved Wabash Heritage Trail and a playground. When cold weather arrives, the Riverside Skating Center is a popular hangout.
Mascouten Park, 900 N. River Road, has easy access to the Wabash River with a boat ramp. Picnic tables also adorn the 15-acre park.
University Farm Park, 500 Lagrange St., contains playgrounds and a picnic shelter inside one of the city’s newer neighborhoods.
There’s something to do for all ages at George E. Lommel Park, 300 Wilshire Ave. A small softball field and soccer area provide plenty of space for older children. Two playgrounds and picnic tables make the park a nice place to spend an afternoon.
How many of you would have enjoyed a climbing boulder growing up? Peck-Trachtman Park, 3300 Dubois St., has one to go with a playground and picnic shelter.
Lincoln Park packs a lot into a half-acre lot at 255 Lincoln St.: A playground, picnic tables inside a 12-by-20-foot shelter and a swing set.
Formerly known as Centennial Neighborhood Park, Paula R. Woods Park was renamed in 2011 in honor of the former West Lafayette Board of Parks and Recreation member. This small park on the corner of Lawn Avenue and Vine Street is a fitting tribute to the lifetime resident of the New Chauncey Neighborhood. A small picnic shelter and a playground for pre-school children is appropriate for the neighborhood.
The Northwest Greenway Trail inside Trailhead Park, 1450 Kalberer Road, provides an experience with nature over its four acres. A picnic shelter and tables are also available.
A basketball court and exercise area are part of Tommy Johnston Park on 200 S. Chauncey St. Johnston was a long-time Purdue employee and president of the West Lafayette Board of Parks and Recreation for 14 of his 20 years on the board. A picnic shelter and swing set also occupy the half-acre park.
TIPPECANOE COUNTY PARKS
One relic of Indiana’s French heritage is Fort Ouiatenon (wee-ah-the-non), established along the Wabash River in 1717 as a fur trading post. Named for the Wea tribes in the area, Ouiatenon was one of Indiana’s earliest settlements. That heritage is recognized each fall with the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon. The replica blockhouse, built in 1930, is open weekends from mid-May to August. Programs and tours may be arranged through the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.
Nearly 100 years after Fort Ouiatenon was established, another milestone moment in Indiana history took place in Battle Ground. On Nov. 11, 1811, General William Henry Harrison led his troops into battle against Tecumseh and his Native American confederation. The site of that battle, which led to Harrison becoming the ninth President of the United States, is the home of Tippecanoe Battlefield Park, a National Historic Landmark.
Visitors can’t miss the 85-foot tall marble obelisk monument to the Battle of Tippecanoe. There’s also the Wah-ba-shik-a Nature Center, open daily from mid-April through early November. The Tippecanoe County Historical Association operates the museum inside the park that tells the story of Harrison’s victory.
Nearby, the Tippecanoe County Amphitheater began as the home for an outdoor historical drama but in recent years has been home to summer concerts, festivals, weddings, picnics and high school cross country events. Soccer fields and hiking/biking trails also occupy the 166-acre campus.
Ross Hills Park and the adjoining Ross Camp is spread out over 380 acres off South River Road in West Lafayette. In addition to the restored David Ross House, visitors will enjoy the Sullivan and Hentschel picnic shelters, adjoining volleyball courts, hiking trails, wooded picnic sites and a softball backstop.
The scenic Ross Camp has nearly 200 wooded acres and is home to a chapel and dining hall ideal for weddings, receptions and banquets. A frame lodge is available for meetings and overnight retreats. If camping is more your style, a campground with modern and primitive sites is available. Other amenities include a catch-and-release fishing pond and hiking trails.
Speaking of hiking, the 13-mile Wabash Heritage Trail begins at Tippecanoe Battlefield Park and follows the Wabash River to Riehle Plaza in downtown Lafayette, back across the Wabash southward toward Fort Ouiatenon. Picnic tables and benches are available along the trail.
Part of the Wabash Heritage Trail, Davis Ferry Park – located on Ninth Street Road along the Wabash – also has a boat launch and picnic area.
Granville Park also offers boat access to the Wabash River, located just off South River Road.
Wildcat Park provides not only canoe access to Wildcat Creek, but is available for fishing and picnicking.
Mar Len Park has been home to outstanding softball for decades, most recently the Indiana Magic girls team. A picnic shelter is also located on the site just south of Wea Ridge Elementary School on County Road 150 E.