Paddlers offer final, tearful toast to Wildcat Park
Tippecanoe County will give up a lease on the popular canoe spot after this weekend. The Indiana DNR isn’t sure who will take care of Wildcat Park in 2023 and beyond. Paddlers ask: Why let it go?
Thanks the Long Center for the Performing Arts for sponsoring today’s edition. The Long Center invites you to Dragons & Mythical Beasts, featuring a magical world of myths and legends in this fantastical new show for all the family. Coming March 24 to the historic downtown theater. For tickets and more, check out longpac.org/events/dragons-mythical-beasts
ONE LAST VISIT TO WILDCAT PARK?
Freshly muddy from the path to the Wildcat Creek’s banks, a slip-and-slide trek Thursday that required canoe paddles doubling as walking sticks for the occasion, a dozen paddlers kicked muck from their boots and toasted good times, lost causes and what Garry “Muskrat” Hill figured was one last look around Wildcat Park.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to any of us, what’s coming,” Hill, founder of Muskrat’s Wildcat Creek Expeditions and organizer of the annual Indiana Paddlers Rendezvous at the park, said.
“We all just needed one last visit,” Hill said, “no matter what happens next.”
Since the mid-‘80s, shortly after residents fended off efforts to dam the Wildcat Creek to make a reservoir east of Lafayette, Wildcat Park has been among the prime put-in and take-out spots for paddlers. And the 53-acre park off Eisenhower Road has been among Tippecanoe County’s most attractive – albeit, often most dangerous – swimming holes.
In late 2021, the Tippecanoe County Parks Board gave the Indiana Department of Natural Resources a one-year notice: After 2022, the county wouldn’t re-up its lease and no longer would manage the park, as it had since 1986.
Since then, the DNR – which owns the property – hasn’t found a replacement to oversee the park when the calendar changes Sunday to 2023.