Thursday, July 18, 2013

Places to Walk for Free or at a Low Cost in Elkhart

Elkhart is a great place to connect with nature. Many people enjoying taking a walk or jogging outside for exercise and appreciate that time to rejuvenate. I have noticed some discontent about Wellfield Botanic Garden charging for admission recently, as some people feel they no longer have a place to walk in the city. I see this is a period of change. While I have not been around for the whole transformation, I did see the move to charging for admission. I didn't like it as much, either, as I live outside of Elkhart city limits. I thought I would just go to special events. I knew I just needed to pay for my own entrance as my 4 younger children would not have to pay admission. I did go to Spring Marketplace and Envirofest. Both were neat events where we enjoyed the beauty of the gardens, music, and learned of great resources in our extended community. Then, Wellfield recently extended free entrance on Tuesdays to all, calling it a "pay what it's worth" day. So, we have options and I would consider a membership if I lived closer or started using the gardens more regularly. There are great options here that allow us to take a walk in the beauty of Wellfield.

There are actually great benefits to having Wellfield Botanic Gardens enclosed and protected. The grounds and gardens look absolutely beautiful! There are also numerous statues and interpretive signs throughout the grounds. In a protected environment, these will last through time. There are also policies in place to keep the beauty of the area. These are needed so the beauty will last for the next group.

I'm all about natural spaces and being able to "play" with nature; however, there are also beauties that are associated with gardens. While my children generally roam free when we go on hikes, it's okay for them to learn there are special behaviors in certain areas. There are plans in place for a children's garden--I'm excited to see this developed more and, in my eyes (as a MOTHER!), this will greatly enhance the value of the gardens at this stage in my life.

Places to Walk for Free or at a Low Cost in Elkhart
1. Elkhart River Walk--This is downtown near the river. I love seeing people out walking, stopping at the splashpad, fishing,
etc. There are also neat landscaping areas in parts of the Riverwalk. 
2. Cobus Creek County Park--A little out of the city, yet we LOVE going here. The sensory garden is a delight to the senses and the woods and river are great for exploring. 
3. Boot Lake Nature Preserve--One of the more rustic areas, we enjoy walking here. Bugs were thick recently, as well as the frogs!
4. Elkhart Environmental Center--The old city dump is now a thriving natural area. There are diverse habitats and educational displays, as well as good walking trails. 
5. Woodlawn Nature Center--This is an often forgotten gem in the city. Woodlawn sits on 10-acres of predominantly oak woods. The trails are a great place to find nature in the middle of a neighborhood. The spring wildflowers are beautiful! Visiting the nature center is also free and an additional value to the walk.
6. Studebaker Park--In addition to the soccer fields, cute cabin, and playground, this connects to other walking trails. I love the bridge and water. So much nature right there! I had a great Christmas Bird Count in this area. 
7. Area Neighborhoods--There are beautiful yards and good places to walk around Elkhart. Sometimes the best place to walk is right where we are! 
8. Wellfield Botanic Gardens--It's free on Tuesdays now for everyone! It's a beautiful place to walk. I consider the plants, arrangements, sculptures, and scenery ART! It also only takes the cost of a few pizzas for a membership. Perhaps a membership can be purchased for a birthday or be given as a suggestion when someone doesn't know what to give. The membership also gives reciprocity to many other botanic gardens across the United States, like Fernwood Botanic Gardens. 
9. Downtown Elkhart--It's pretty! The sidewalks are wide. There are plenty of natural spaces, trees, and planter boxes. There are also many open spaces. We also like finding all the elk!
10. Ox Bow Park--This is a little bit of a drive, but Ox Bow is still always on the top list of places when I ask people where they like to get out in nature. This is a large area with diverse habitats, playgrounds, archery ranges, and more. A vehicle costs $2/day in season.
11. Walker Park--Just as the name implies, it's a great place to walk! My children find nature while there.
12. Island Park--This is also near downtown and connects to other downtown parks. The geese come right up to you. Bring fishing gear if you like. 

I recently helped with a WNIT video called Our Town: Elkhart, where local people became the videographers, capturing a unique aspect of the city. I chose NATURE. Through the filming, I was reminded once again of the many natural resources we have in our area. Some may cost a small fee, yet ALL are available for free at some part of the year. We live in beautiful area with many options for connecting to nature and exercising! 

So, where do you like to walk in Elkhart? Will you share your favorite place?