TERRE HAUTE —
Vigo County parks will soon see a 42-percent expansion with the acquisition of about 822 acres in southern Vigo County, formerly owned by Pfizer.
The Vigo County Parks and Recreation Board on Monday voted to approve a contract to acquire the land, located north of Dallas Road, for $50,000. Funding will come half from a grant from the Wabash Valley Community Foundation and half from the Vigo County Redevelopment Commission.
The acquisition will expand the county’s park land to about 2,700 acres, from about 1,900 acres.
To help develop the property, the park department intends to pursue a matching grant from the state’s Bicentennial Nature Trust, said Parks Superintendent Kara Kish.
Kish told the board that the parks department will require about 12 months to develop a plan for the land before it can be open to the public. The land may be open for public use in the fall of 2014 or in early 2105, Kish said.
Kish said recreational uses being considered include a “looped public trail system for hiking, hunting, fishing and bird and wildlife watching.”
“We will divide the property, with about 150 acres developed, with a dog park, playground, restrooms, a shelter, a playground and parking,” Kish said. “Then there will be a buffer portion, and on the remaining acreage we will put in a trail system. There are some ponds for fishing, and during hunting seasons, we will close down that portion just for hunting.”
County Attorney Michael Wright said the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has cleared the site of all environmental remediation. The county, through the Corradino Group, also had a Phase 1 environmental study conducted on the site.
Wright said the land has restrictions, including maintaining environmental caps, which includes ensuring some areas maintain a 2-inch clay overall. Also, “Pfizer has included in the purchase agreement a license to come back onto the property for some ground water monitoring, which they have to continue,” Wright said.
“Their environmental engineers are hopeful that could be concluded in two to three years,” Wright said.
Wright said the county hopes to close on the land Dec. 20.
“This is very common. A lot of parks departments acquire land like this because we are not doing significant excavation. We are just laying trails on top,” Kish said.
Acquisition of the property was originally spearheaded by former parks superintendent Keith Ruble, who had worked as an independent forester for Pfizer maintaining much of the property.
“This was Keith’s vision. We are excited about his,” Kish said.
Pfizer previously placed about 650 acres of the property into the Indiana Department of Natural Resource’s Classified Forest and Wildlands Programs, which provides for the use of native grass prairie that enhances and provides habitat for wildlife.
Pfizer restored previous portions of the property after a 2008 flood. Pfizer ceased operations at the Terre Haute facility in 2010.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.