JASONVILLE -- District 39 State Sen. John Waterman (R-Shelburn) said he sees the move of Piankeshaw Trails Education Center from Eastern Greene County to Shakamak State Park as being a good thing for the entire area.
Waterman, a ranking member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, was instrumental in working behind the scenes to help craft the agreement between the not-for-profit organization and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
It's the first time the state has worked out an agreement like this to contract for educational services at a state park, according to Sheryl Hartman, who serves as manager/director of the group that has been based in rural Solsberry since its founding.
Waterman, speaking from the Statehouse in Indianapolis Tuesday, pointed out that Shakamak is the Indian word for "long fish or eel" and has a natural tie in with the Native American heritage.
"I visited her encampment (near Solsberry) when they first talked about moving it and Shakamak is just the ideal place for that with its location in the three-county area," Waterman said. "We are hoping this is the start of something pretty big with the Native American background that our area has. There is a lot potential that is going into the park. Or course, we are trying to build tourism for our area. The more people that we can get to come in there, the more the businesses profit."
Waterman sees a nice partnership with the organization and the Sullivan County Native American Council that can boast the offerings at Shakamak State Park.
"The potential on the federal level for grants is almost endless for minorities like this," he said. "That is what we are hoping for. Shakamak is going to be a focal point and there are other large events planned there later in the year."
Waterman called the move a "win-win" for everybody in Greene, Sullivan and Clay counties.
"It's a good educational tool for the kids from the surrounding school corporations in the three counties. Anytime, when I was a kid and you had a hands-on outing like that, you remember it," he said.
He said the cooperation and reception of the idea from the State Department of Natural Resources with the project is encouraging.
"We already have several people who have a lot of artifacts and want a place to display them. The potential is there … it's that there are going to be several stepping stones and building stones to get this thing built up and get it moving," Waterman said.