21Country: LC Nature Park shares plan to protect, restore Indiana’s land
Bison, elk part of preservation efforts
ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WPTA21) - John Brooks and his family have owned land along the Little River for over two decades. Whenever they could, they bought up more property around it, reaching over 200 acres, with the sole purpose of protecting it from development in southern Allen County.
“We put a conservation easement on a large part of the about 140 acres of it almost 15 years ago,” Brooks told us. But plan for his “farm” took shape after his wife, Carol died of cancer. “She passed away four-and-a-half years ago. After that, my kids and I were trying to figure out ways to honor her.”
“She died of breast cancer. We spent a lot of time researching how we could help support breast cancer research — we do that, and we continue to do that — but we realized at one point in time, she was a lot more than cancer,” Brooks shared. “Frankly, we interviewed a lot of her friends, more of the family, and said okay, ‘what do you remember about her?’”
“What came out, were: science, nature, kids, fun, camaraderie — all those things a park like this can help provide,” he said. From there, the plan to build LC Nature Park. The “LC” in the name, stands for “Loving Carol”. Over the last few years, the vision to take Brook’s land, once owned by Native Americans, and restore and preserve it as close to pre-settlement in 21Country.
Bison and elk were soon brought in, and roam side by side in a massive enclosure. Helping with their care, is park director, Dr. George Manning. He’s working to build a self-sustaining environment for the animals, so humans can interact as little as possible. But the process has, and will take years. “Right now, this time of year, we’ll start putting out hay for them to eat and that will continue all winter until the grassland areas spring back up again,” Manning told us. “That’s really sort of the extent of their involvement in their lives. We really try to let them be elk and bison, and do what they do.”
Within the LC Nature Park, are diverse ecotypes, like grasslands, wetlands, and woodlands. There’s even a sand dune. A good portion of Manning’s work, is keeping those environments in tact. “It’s really mostly non-native species management, so keeping bush honeysuckle, garlic mustard… keeping those species out in an effort to let the native plants that are already there, flourish,” he explained.
Manning is working to see other wildlife call LC Nature Park home. “We create these healthy ecosystems, these fully functioning environments,” he said, “then hopefully, the birds and the animals and the insects they eat — all that will kind of come back and take up residence here in the park.
Though the park, over the last few years, has slowly been turning back time to what the land looked like pre-European arrival, it only opened to the public in the summer of 2021. It was a moment of pride for the park’s founder. “I was feeling fantastic,” Brooks told us. “As one of her friends told me, she said, ‘Carol is here with us right now she’s just really enjoying the hell out of this!’”
Looking towards the future, LC Nature Park is trying to become a field trip destination for schools, developing programs to education students. “The big goal of ours is that everyone that comes out takes something home with them that they didn’t know about Indiana or some of the plants and animals we have living out here,” Manning said.
“That’s what we’re trying to show here: Indiana,” Brooks described, “It’s not all corn fields and bean fields. There’s a real beauty to Indiana when you get to see the natural part of it.”
LC Nature Park is open during the winter. Public and private guided hikes are offered, but scheduling an appointment is required. Fees are $5 a person. You can find more information on those events at their website here.
Copyright 2022 WPTA. All rights reserved.