Park with a Personality: White River State Park Shows Its Present Charm through a Complex Past

Article excerpt

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White River State Park is a swath of greenspace that defines Indianapolis as a city as unique in its parks as it is in its culture. Trails for hiking, grassy performance venues and cool waterways make up the landscape. But just as important as the landscape are the park's history, attractions and art.

History

The history of White River State Park dates as far back as the inception of Indianapolis. When the city was founded in 1820, one of the first settlers of Indianapolis built his cabin at the confluence of the White River and Fall Creek. But the area wasn't considered a park until the Military Park area was first used in 1822 as a location of the city's first Independence Day celebration.

The true development of what is now known as White River State Park began in the 1970s when an abandoned plot of industrial land was given to the city. The Indiana General Assembly created a governor-appointed development commission for the park in 1979. Slowly, the park became a citywide destination throughout the 1980s as the Indianapolis Zoo and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art opened.

The park came into its current form in the 1990s through several major projects. The Washington Street Bridge renovation linked park attractions across the White River and the $20 million Central Canal Extension combined the park and the nearby canal. The design of the park provides open spaces for performance venues, like the Governor's Lawn and Celebration Plaza. Natural walkways, including the River Promenade and the path along the Central Canal meander through the greenspace.

Attractions

White River State Park is home to a slew of cultural and art attractions. Start off at the Indianapolis Zoo, where you can interact with dolphins in the world's only underwater dolphin dome. The zoo also contains the White River Gardens, more than three acres of indoor and outdoor foliage with a live butterfly exhibit. …