FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 12, 2011
IAA Contact: Carlo Bertolini
317.487.5025 | firstname.lastname@example.org
HCPR contact: William Roche
317.718.6188 | email@example.com
USFWS contact: Georgia Parham
812.334.4261, ext. 203 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sodalis Nature Park marks unique collaboration between airport, Hendricks County, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
210-acre property, to open May 13, is both public park and wildlife preserve
Service Biologist Lori Pruitt and Bloomington Indiana Field Supervisor Scott Pruitt take a look at a trail map for Sodalis Nature Park in Hendricks County, Indiana. The 210-acre park is part of a conservation area managed by the Indianapolis Airport Authority for long-term conservation of the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). Indiana bats use the area in summer to raise their young.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA) and Hendricks County Parks and Recreation (HCPR), in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), are pleased to announce the official launch of the Sodalis Nature Park in Hendricks County. The park, which will hold dedication ceremonies at 10 a.m. on May 13, represents IAA’s commitment to the residents of Hendricks County and the surrounding area, offering visitors the chance to enjoy direct participation in a conservation area.
The park is named for the federally endangered Indiana bat, Myotis sodalis, which inhabits wooded areas in and around the park. Sodalis Nature Park is located on lands that have been protected for the Indiana bat under a Habitat Conservation Plan that was created to ensure that the colony of Indiana bats near the airport can survive in the midst of development in the area.
Sodalis Nature Park will be operated and maintained by HCPR on property owned by the IAA. The park encompasses 209.5 acres of land that were previously closed to the public and that serve as a refuge for more than 100 species of wildlife, including the Indiana bat. The park was designed to provide visitor amenities, including trails, picnic areas, year- round educational programs, and a 5.5-acre pond with fishing pier, without detracting from the value of the area as Indiana bat habitat.
“The Sodalis Nature Park underscores our commitment to the guiding principles of our development standards,” said Greta Hawvermale, the IAA’s senior director of engineering and environmental matters. “It is a testament to the benefits of a creative land-use policy that supports thriving populations of local wildlife while offering educational, recreational and economic benefits to citizens in the region.”
“We thank the Hendricks County Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose partnership was vital in the creation of this truly unique park,” she added.
Al Bennett, who represents Hendricks County on the IAA board, said, “Sodalis Nature Park will provide significant recreational and educational opportunities in our community, where publicly accessible open space is at a premium. I appreciate the dedicated work of the IAA’s environmental, conservation and engineering staff and the support of my fellow board members, Hendricks County officials and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service during the development of this collaborative project.”
Gary Emsweller, president of the Hendricks County Park Board, said, “It is an honor and privilege for the Hendricks County Parks and Recreation System to be entrusted with the Sodalis property by IAA and USFWS. It not only opens a major area of green space for public use, but it also demonstrates the Park Board’s commitment to maintaining a safe environment for the protected species, the Indiana bat. This unique partnership with HCPR, IAA & USFWS is the first known partnership of its kind in the country. The Park Board welcomes the challenge of being good stewards of the environment and land for generations to come.”
Scott Pruitt, project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bloomington Field Office, said, “We are pleased that not only will Sodalis Nature Park provide a haven for the Indiana bat, it will offer an opportunity for the residents of Hendricks County and beyond to learn about this amazing creature. By sharing their park with the Indiana bat, visitors are actively participating in the conservation of a truly unique Indiana treasure.”
In 1992, the IAA began working with the USFWS to mitigate the consequences that development projects can have on roosting and foraging habitats of the federally endangered Indiana bat. Under the guidance of the USFWS, the IAA developed a Habitat Conservation Program that protects allocated land, allows scientific research, and establishes conservation and monitoring practices for both the bats and their roosting and foraging habitats.
Under the conservation program, which has become one of the most successful habitat restoration projects in the nation, the IAA has acquired over 2,200 acres of land located in Marion and Hendricks counties. The permanently protected areas support wetland conservation in addition to providing a protected habitat for the bats.
In 2009, the IAA and HCPR, working with the USFWS to ensure the proposed park would not be incompatible with the area’s core conservation mission, entered into a 20-year lease agreement to establish the Sodalis Nature Park within the permanently protected area. The unique partnership will allow visitors the rare opportunity to enjoy a robust, permanently protected wildlife habitat, something they will not experience at any other park in the region, particularly one located in a major metropolitan area.
PHOTO & INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY:
Dedication of Sodalis Nature Park
WHAT: Reporters and photographers are invited to a photo and interview opportunity with officials from Hendricks County Parks and Recreation, the Indianapolis Airport Authority, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who will be welcoming local schoolchildren for the dedication of the Sodalis Nature Park. The park is a unique collaboration between the airport, county, and Fish and Wildlife Service. The schoolchildren will participate in the dedication via a field trip that is part of the park’s environmental education program. Guided tours of the park will be available, and members of the media are invited to join the group’s cookout for lunch.
WHERE: The Sodalis Nature Park, located five minutes south of Plainfield at 7700 S. CR 975 East, Plainfield, IN 46168. For maps and directions, see www.hendrickscountyparks.org/aboutSodalis
WHEN: Friday, May 13, 2011 | 10 a.m.
WHO: Gary Emsweller, president of the Hendricks County Park Board
Al Bennett, who represents Hendricks County on the IAA board
Scott Pruitt, project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bloomington Field Office
Visitors enjoy opening day at Sodalis Nature Park in Hendricks County, Indiana. The 216-acre park - named for the endangered Indiana bat, Myotis sodalis - is surrounded by land set aside by the Indianapolis Airport Authority as part of a Habitat Conservation Plan to conserve Indiana bats that have summer maternity colonies near Indianapolis International Airport.