Last summer the Center for Rural Engagement at Indiana University partnered with the Eppley Institute to better understand the assets in what is called the Indiana Uplands region. This area of Indiana, a focus of the Center for Rural Engagement, has significant public land resources in a region with significant economic, social, and educational challenges. The Center and Eppley Institute’s hope in conducting the study was to inventory the public, non-profit, and private conservation or recreation areas, recreation and tourism facilities, and recreation programs as they might help to invigorate communities with economic sustainability, health, and quality of life.
Map courtesy of Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement
Data for the study was collected through geographic information systems (GIS) databases, web-based research, information sharing with regional stakeholders, phone contacts with stakeholders, and focus groups with leadership from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and stakeholders in the 11 counties. The study identified that the Indiana Uplands has significant park, protected area, and recreation resources.
|Type of Opportunity||Total Number||Area||% Free Access||% Fee Access||% Not Accessible|
|Conservation and Recreation Areas||402||409,658 acres||71%||18%||10%|
|Recreation and Tourism Facilities||4,920||1,145 sites||59%||40%||1%|
|Recreation and Tourism Programs||1,275||28%||72%||0%|
The data revealed several factors that defined the use of the resources, facilities, and programs in these counties, including low cost, safety, health and wellness, natural beauty, recreation and sports opportunities, and variety and quality of opportunities. In addition, future needs for parks, public lands, trails, facilities, and programs were identified in the study including a need for more parks and trails, sports and recreation facilities, and bike infrastructure. The study also identified that regional connections between trails and other places, was a significant need.
Tourism enhancement opportunities also emerged from the study and included festivals and events, food and agritourism, natural features and outdoor recreation, the development of entertainment facilities, and tourism amenity development. The findings led to 10 specific recommendations to assist communities in the Indiana Uplands with improving health, economic sustainability, and quality of life. For more information, contact the Eppley Institute or IU Center for Rural Engagement to share these findings.