A useful general history of Indiana’s state parks, this highly readable study explores changes over time in the landscape and built environment. Richard Lieber, the Father of Indiana State Parks, asserted that the “primary purpose” for these lands was “preserving for posterity typical primitive landscapes of scenic grandeur and rugged beauty.” The author has walked these woods and fields all her life.
Just what is a state park in Indiana? Definitions of appropriate development and use evolved over decades, often shaped by public clamor and budgetary priorities. Initially, under Lieber’s direction, “contact with nature” was the dominant guideline, and preservation of woodlands a primary consideration. With the New Deal in the 1930s, development in the parks increased and expanded to allow more people to use them, but still mostly in traditional ways, such as picnicking and hiking. In the decades since World War II, changing concepts of leisure and recreational pursuits have increased demand for more parks, more space developed within them, and a greater range of activities offered. But we still cling to older values espousing nature’s restorative power. The problem of too many people trying to make contact with a circumscribed patch of nature has no easy solution.