by Mindy Murdock, Director of Recreational Services for the Town of Zionsville. Prior to her promotion, she was Park Naturalist for the Zionsville Nature Center. Mindy has over 20 years’ experience in parks, and is passionate about helping and encouraging others to get outside and discover the wonders of nature in their community. In her free time, you can usually find her out playing in a park, gardening, and exploring nature with her husband and their four-year-old daughter.
Here in Boone County our communities, residents, and kids all benefit from having nearby parks and play spaces. Parks provide us with safe gathering places to connect with family and friends. They promote wellness and healthy lifestyles for our communities. And they’re places to explore, to run, play, use our imagination, and watch the beauty of the seasons change in our natural habitats.
Perhaps you didn’t know there are parks within our communities that provide both recreational, wellness and natural opportunities without having to leave our county? This is a short list of eight amazing places to explore with your entire family. Happily, this list doesn’t include every opportunity, and I encourage you to explore the links provided to check out what other opportunities exist in Boone County.
Big-4 Rail Trail
Lace up those running shoes, grab a bottle of water and a snack, or load your bike into the back of your car. No need to drive all the way to the Monon, as Boone County has its very own Rail Trail and trail access might be closer than you think. The Big-4 Rail Trail is named for the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway Corridor. However, when the trail is finished it will also connect the four communities of Zionsville, Whitestown, Lebanon and Thorntown.The trail gives you access to natural areas, downtown restaurants and shops and views of Boone county’s agricultural heritage. The northern end passes over Sugar Creek on an iron bridge. The southern end of the Big-4 Rail Trail in Zionsville provides scenic views of Eagle Creek and when complete will connect to the mountain bike trails at Overley-Worman Park (Opening 2022).
Learn more at the links below:
Starkey Nature Park, 667 Sugarbush Drive, Zionsville
Want the perfect park to enjoy the beauty of nature, whether that means a morning bird walk, seeking out the first spring wildflower (note: It’s called Harbinger of Spring) or watching the last of the colorful autumn leaves drift to the ground then you need to discover Starkey Nature Park. This 75-acre nature park is located near the Village of Zionsville. Rustic dirt trails weave themselves down into the Eagle Creek floodplain, so we recommend you wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots. Bring along your binoculars as well as Starkey Park is a known birding hotspot for spring and summer migrants, views of bald eagles as well as waterfowl.
The park also gives access to Eagle Creek, though you do need to traverse a nice set of stairs to enjoy that view. Access to Starkey Nature Park can also be reached from the Big-4 Rail Trail. Zionsville Parks are open Dawn to Dusk.
Born Learning Trail, Thorntown
Newly created you’ll find this interactive family-friendly trail at Tom Johnson Memorial Park in Thorntown. An inclusive learning experience for the youngest members of your family, each station has a prompt designed to promote early childhood learning.
Lion’s Park, 115 S Elm Street, Zionsville
In the heart of Zionsville sits the 18-acre recreational park owned and operated by the Zionsville Lion’s Club. It’s the home to Zionsville Little League, the 4th of July Fireworks and the well-known Fall Festival. The park allows for easy walking to Zionsville Main Street and has walking trails and playgrounds for families. Summer also brings Sunday concerts. In addition to the Lion’s Club sponsored events, it is also host to other private events held throughout the year.
Learn More: https://www.zionsvillelions.com/
Main Street Park, 4286 S. Main Street, Whitestown
There’s a lot packed into this 11-acre park located near Walker Farms off Main Street including tennis courts, basketball and even corn hole. But the biggest, and if you ask the children in your family, the best features are the playground, splash pad and sledding hill. During warmer weather, the park is well used on weekends and early weekday afternoons. All Whitestown parks are open Dawn to Dusk.
Learn More: https://whitestown.in.gov/facilities
Mulberry Fields Park, 9645 Whitestown Road, Zionsville
Mulberry Fields is one of my favorite parks year-round. It’s the perfect park to spend a summer day. Pack a lunch to enjoy in a picnic shelter or spread out on the grassy field. Then check out the playground and splash pad which includes a man-made creek with rocks, perfect for little ones to explore. Surrounding the entire area are fields of restored prairie wildflowers and grasses.
If adventure is more your style, then grab your skateboard and head over to the newly renovated skatepark. The park itself was designed by Seattle based Grindline Skateparks and was updated by the Zionsville Parks Department in 2020.
Abner Longley Park, 1601 Longley Drive, Lebanon
Our exploration of splash pads in the county wouldn’t be complete if we left off Abner Longley Park. This 51-acre park also provides plenty of other recreational possibilities including pickleball courts, tennis, disc golf, softball, an RC course, and a football field which is home to the Lebanon Youth Football League.
Learn more at the links below:
Elm Street Green, 165 N Elm Street, Zionsville – Down the street from the bustling Lion’s Park you’ll find a gem of green space called Elm Street Green. This little park provides easy access to Eagle Creek for fly fishing, and kayak or canoe launch. It’s also one of two locations for community garden plots through the Zionsville Parks and Recreation Department. A new addition in 2020 is an adventure playground. Through a partnership between Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library and Zionsville Parks a permanent StoryWalk will open in Spring 2021.