In the less than two years since its opened to the public, the DePauw Nature Park west of Greencastle has been the site of numerous educational opportunities as well as a recreational treasure.
On Friday afternoon, alumni, faculty, students and administrators gathered for the formal dedication of two new buildings in the DePauw University Nature Park.
The Manning Environmental Field Station -- made possible by a gift from Tim and Denise Manning Solso, both 1969 graduates of DePauw -- is named in memory of Denise Solso's father and grandfather, Thomas Manning and George A. Manning, respectively. It is a laboratory building with about 3,800 square feet of space and facilitates the teaching of environmental science, environmental biology and ecology.
The Ian and Mimi Rolland Welcome and Activities Center provides 1,400 square feet of interior space and 3,700 square feet of total space under the roof. It serves as a trailhead building for groups entering the park, where they can receive orientation and plan their activities. The structure also serves as the offices for the park ranger staff. The building bears the name of the donors; Ian Rolland is a 1955 graduate of DePauw.
"At this point, I've lost count of the number of classes and the range of faculty who have used the Nature Park to enhance their teaching at DePauw," Dana Dudle, associate professor of biology, told the gathered audience while relating some of the educational benefits of the facility.
The DePauw Nature Park opened to the public in September 2004. It includes 10 miles of trails that wind through the property and along Big Walnut Creek, as well as the outdoor classrooms and a small outdoor amphitheater. Areas for weekend primitive camping and a canoe launch (with a canoe rental service) are available. Plans for the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, which will be located within the Nature Park, were announced in September 2005. There are also plans to develop natural areas.
Professor Dudle says students and faculty members from many disciplines -- not only biology and environmental sciences -- take advantage of the opportunities the Nature Park has for teaching, learning and reflection on a regular basis. The scientist, a self-described "quarry freak," told the crowd gathered for the ceremony, "The part of the park that we now call the quarry bottom is such an unusual opportunity to study primary succession. Most students have to go to Hawaii where the volcanoes are spitting up bare rock, or go to Mount St. Helen in Washington to study the process of life colonizing bare rock. It's really an unusual opportunity, and we're so lucky to have this terrific set of lab facilities to facilitate our work out there," Dudle exclaimed.
The Nature Park also hosts countless groups from area schools. Stacie Stoffregen, a sixth grade science teacher at Greencastle Middle School, described how DePauw students developed an "Outdoor Explorer" program for her pupils, and how much the younger students benefit from the opportunities the Nature Park provides. With the DePauw program, "They emphasize the interconnectedness between the park and the hands-on component," she says. "The students really love that aspect."
Hanson Aggregates mined a limestone quarry on the site, which is located one-third of a mile from the western edge of the DePauw campus, for nearly a half century. The company donated 280 acres of the land, and is leasing the remaining 178 acres to the University for $1 annually for ninety-nine years. DePauw acquired 23 acres of adjacent property to increase the total to 481 acres.
The DePauw University Nature Park is open to the public from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. Camping is permitted only in designated areas and with authorization.
For more information, contact park ranger Brien Holsapple at 653-5139, or the Public Safety Office at 658-4261.