Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
Select this button stylePrint Friendly

This is the restored 40-acre Hopkins Family Park in Gibson County, Indiana. Shortly after the project was restored, monarchs arrived and this caterpillar was happily at home. Photo (left to right) restored park by Heath Hamilton/USFWS and Monarch caterpillar by USFWS.

This is the restored 40-acre Hopkins Family Park in Gibson County, Indiana. Shortly after the project was restored, monarchs arrived and this caterpillar was happily at home. Photo (left to right) restored park by Heath Hamilton/USFWS and Monarch caterpillar by USFWS.

How We Helped Create a County’s First Park

A unique partnership was developed between the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (Partners Program), a private landowner and Gibson County, Indiana, involving a tract of private land within two miles of the 9,000-acre Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge (Patoka River Refuge). A private landowner worked with Partner Program’s biologist Heath Hamilton from Patoka River Refuge on a 31-acre native prairie restoration project in 2015 on farmland that had been in the owner’s family for more than 100 years. The landowner then donated a 40-acre tract of the property containing the prairie restoration to the newly established Gibson County Park Board to provide permanent protection and to establish Hopkins Family Park as the first County Park property in Gibson County.

The grassland project that created the Hopkins Family Park was a priority for the Indiana Partners Program due to its strategic location within the Southwest River Corridors Focus Area – being proximate to existing conservation land. An additional wetland project is planned for this year on the site that will develop 6 seasonal shallow-water wetland basins on the remaining portion of the tract. Creating these shallow-water wetland basins increases the number of resting areas for migrating waterfowl like mallards and hooded mergansers.

Increasing grasslands near established conservation areas also increases the benefit and opportunity of nesting and brood rearing for grassland birds such as Henslow's sparrow, Eastern meadowlark and dickcissel. In addition, due to the diverse native forb mix that was planted, including partridge pea, purple coneflower, blazing star, common and butterfly milkweed, the planting will provide quality habitat for native pollinators such as the monarch butterfly. A successful partnership like this one has sparked the landowner to consider donating more land adjacent to the Hopkins Family Park to provide more acres for outdoor recreation and environmental education for the citizens of Gibson County.

The project was supported financially through the Service’s Monarch Initiative and adds to the Service's efforts nationally to restore and enhance native grass and forb plantings which include native milkweeds and a diverse forb mix providing season-long nectar sources. Not only was the forb mix diverse, but the partnership was as well, involving local government, non-governmental organizations and local businesses, as well as the landowner. Site preparation was provided by a local agribusiness, seeding was done by a local commercial farm consultant, and the Gibson County Park Board and Gibson County Highway Department have teamed up to insure proper maintenance of the plantings. The Gibson County Soil and Water Conservation District and Quail Forever also provided in-kind assistance for the seed cost and planting. Throughout the process, Hamilton provided technical assistance and recommendations to ensure successful restoration and management of the tract, developed and purchased the seed mix for the site, fostered partnerships with other conservation organizations to help provide needed materials or in-kind services and coordinated the work to complete the restoration project as planned. This collaboration resulted in a unique opportunity for the citizens of Gibson County to enjoy a local park property that emphasizes native habitat restoration and environmental education.

By Jeff Kiefer
Indiana Private Lands Office
 
and
 
Heath Hamilton
Patoka National Wildlife Refuge

Heath Hamilton stands in front of the Hopkins Family Park sign. Photo by USFWS.

Heath Hamilton stands in front of the Hopkins Family Park sign. Photo by USFWS.

 

Last updated: March 4, 2016