Kankakee Valley Sands bison

Photo by Kankakee Sands Site Manager Trevor Edmonson

Kankakee Sands will receive a planning assistance to improve visitor accessibility from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program


NEWTON COUNTY — The National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have agreed to begin working with Kankakee Sands on a project to improve visitor experience at the reserve. This project came about after the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program approved Kankakee Sands’ request for planning assistance.

“The National Park Service RTCA program is excited to be supporting the great work The Nature Conservancy is doing in Indiana” said Mike Mencarini, Community Planner from the National Park Service. “Our staff work with partners on locally led outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation projects to help create opportunities for people to enjoy spending time outdoors and experience nature in communities across the entire country. We’re also looking forward to collaborating with partners at Purdue University’s Center for Community and Environmental Design to help TNC staff develop planning recommendations to improve the visitor experience at Kankakee Sands.”

Kankakee Sands and TNC will be working to develop an overall planning process and will focus attention on specific topics such as expanding trails, improving wildlife overlooks, and incorporating neighboring natural areas into the Kankakee Sands visitor experience.

“We’re thrilled to work with the National Park Service on Kankakee Sands,” said Larry Clemens, state director for TNC’s Indiana Chapter. “Kankakee Sands is an amazing place, but we want to do more to make it a destination. We want to improve visitor access, experience and education while maintaining the natural beauty of the prairie.”

The NPS-RTCA is a unique federal program that supports community-led projects by assisting in planning new initiatives and providing project partners with the expertise of NPS staff. The objective of the NPS is to preserve the natural and cultural resources of communities and the natural landscape for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. In their projects, the NPS attempts to work closely with the community in the planning process to ensure that the outcome is inclusive and meets the needs of all members.

Kankakee Sands is unique among TNC nature preserves in Indiana because of the bison that were reintroduced to the 8,400-acre preserve. The bison are a popular attraction and bring many visitors to the preserve.

Parties interested in participating in plan development should contact Melissa Moran, Director of Community Programs at The Nature Conservancy at melissa.moran@tnc.org. RTCA will deliver their planning recommendations to TNC in the summer of 2022.


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