Herd of bison on lush green prairie under a lightly cloudy blue sky.
Kankakee Sands bison herd 110 strong and growing! © Trevor Edmonson/TNC


National Park Service to Provide Planning Assistance for Kankakee Sands in Northwest Indiana

NPS and The Nature Conservancy will work to improve visitor experience at Newton County preserve

The National Park Service's Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program recently approved a request submitted by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for a project to improve visitor access and experience at Kankakee Sands in Newton County.

The project entails working with TNC and partners 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.

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. Beyond bison, there is much more to the story of this amazing restoration. 

“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 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.”

TNC and RTCA staff will follow up with stakeholders soon to kick off the planning process.  Parties interested in participating in plan development should contact Melissa Moran, Director of Community Programs at The Nature Conservancy.

RTCA will work with partners over the next several months and will deliver their planning recommendations to TNC in the summer of 2022. 

About the National Park Service

The National Park Service (NPS) preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world. The NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program (RTCA) supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation. Our conservation and outdoor recreation staff provide planning and technical assistance to community groups, nonprofit organizations, tribes, and government agencies. This partnership assists local communities in realizing their conservation and outdoor recreation vision and goals by providing a broad range of services and professional skills.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.