By Phil Bloom, 2017 ACI Conference Coordinator
Indiana will roll out the red carpet in July for the Association for Conservation Information’s 2017 conference.
Entertaining visitors is a way of life in Indiana, where we’ve coined the label “Hoosier Hospitality.”
From events like the Indianapolis 500, NCAA championships, major trade and industrial shows and national conventions, Hoosiers have perfected the art of making others feel welcome.
The same drive is a hallmark of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, epitomized by our Division of State Parks, which draws 16 million annual visitors to the 32 properties it manages across the state.
Brown County State Park – the site for ACI 2017 – is the crown jewel of the park system, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. Brown County has gained a national reputation as “the Little Smokies” because of similarities with the Great Smoky Mountains. At nearly 16,000 forested acres, it is Indiana’s largest state park.
Nestled in the rolling hill country of southern Indiana, the park and surrounding lands were spared by the advance of glaciers thousands of years ago that impacted much of Indiana’s northern landscape. It would be difficult in a flyover to distinguish the park from adjacent public lands – Morgan-Monroe State Forest (25,500 acres), Yellowwood State Forest (23,500 acres) and about one-third of the Hoosier National Forest, whose 203,000 total acres are spread across nine counties from here to the Ohio River.
Nearby is the town of Nashville and its artist colony, craft shops, and restaurants. Twenty miles east is Columbus, noted for numerous buildings and structures designed by world-famous architects as Eeri Saarinen and I.M Pei. Twenty miles west is Bloomington, which made National Geographic’s list of America’s best adventure towns. There’s also a thriving cultural scene in Bloomington, fueled by the fact it is home to Indiana University.
Despite those attractions, there’s plenty to keep visitors busy at Brown County State Park. Hiking trails that range from easy to rugged, fishing at two interior lakes, horseback riding, swimming, tennis and mountain bike riding are popular activities. In fact, the park’s mountain bike trails have earned Epic status from the International Mountain Biking Association.
The park’s historic Abe Martin Lodge is our conference home. Built in 1932, the lodge is named for a cartoon character. Abe’s folksy wit was the creation of Indiana newspaperman Kin Hubbard, whom Will Rogers called “America’s greatest humorist.”
All ACI workshops, meals and social activities will take place at the lodge, which features meeting space, a full-service restaurant, gift shop, indoor aquatic center, modern rooms and nearby sleeping cabins for the budget-minded.
Storytelling is the conference theme with sessions aimed at improving your skills in all communications formats.
Team Indiana also is looking into a number of side trips for Tuesday afternoon, including mountain biking, target shooting at DNR’s premier outdoor range, a 100-year forestry management study, a zipline adventure, and more.
So, join us July in Indiana, where we promise to show you some Hoosier Hospitality.
(Editor’s note: An updated agenda is now online. Visit the Conferences page for this and more information about the 2017 conference.)