By Rev. Damian Schmelz, OSB (1932 – 2016)
One hundred years ago, the State Park system of Indiana was founded. The state was already 100 years old. Settlers continued to spread out over the landscape, having come here by water over the Ohio, Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, searching for a better place for their families. They found vast forests in which there would be lumber for building houses, barns, and other structures. They created open burn areas for their fields to grow crops and feed their families. They found a peaceful setting among hostile forces.
What they did not have time nor interest to find is what Richard Lieber envisioned. Amidst that landscape, he also beheld that there was a solitude and peacefulness among it. In his soul he sensed a tranquility which many others were ill-prepared to appreciate or understand. Among all these forests, meadows, and rivers he found peacefulness in his soul and spirit – one cherished even more than in trees, or rich soil, or water. He realized very well that he needed these elements, but he discovered that they did not fill him with wholeness.
He needed something else – something special. He was more than a “part” of that whole, yet he was not “apart” from it. At that time, most Hoosiers were not dreamers. Lieber was.
Thus, he worked long and hard to preserve a few of these special places for all generations: McCormick’s Creek and Turkey Run became the first two of his special places in our State Park system. Twenty-four are now scattered throughout our state as we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of what Lieber began.
Today, a small group of environmentally insensitive people, who will never understand or who will never share and feel his spirit, cannot help but harm our public lands. Revenue generating is often the entry point to similar forces that are destructive to Lieber’s efforts toward tranquility.
It is essential, dear Hoosiers, that you see the power that your voice, your opinions, your values have in preserving our natural heritage. We must stand tall, and continue Richard Lieber’s true vision.
Contact Governor Pence at (317) 232-4567, or at email@example.com, and urge him to protect the natural beauty of our State Parks and state forests.
Fr. Damian Schmelz, OSB (1932 – 2016) was a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, IN. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1958. He did graduate studies at Purdue University, earning a master’s in plant ecology in 1964 and a PhD in that field in 1969. Fr. Damian taught biology at Saint Meinrad High School and College for nearly 40 years. He served for 33 years on the Indiana Natural Resources Commission and was co-author of Natural Areas of Indiana, published in 1969. The work served as a guide for the creation of Indiana’s Natural Preserves. Fr. Damian is also known for his research in Indiana old-growth forests. He also was active in the Indiana Academy of Science, receiving the Outstanding Service Award in 2003. In 2009, he was a member of the inaugural class named to the Indiana Conservation Hall of Fame.