Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Indiana: Where Our State Parks Aren't Free And Don't Have Trash Cans

A friend of mine recently moved to Indianapolis and overall has enjoyed her time in the city. But her top gripe is that the closest state park, Fort Harrison State Park, charges admission or requires an annual membership.

We took my dog, Quest, out on a hike through the park today. Along the way we noticed several signs saying dogs must be on a leash at all times and that owners must clean up after their dog. As a good citizen, I did so when my dog made a mess.

As our hike ended and we returned to the parking lot, we looked for a trash can and found none. There are several picnic tables, and even picnic areas presumably meant for large gatherings. But not a single trash can was around. Both restrooms also did not have trash cans.

We did, however, encounter signs saying that group picnics must clean up after themselves.

As we left the park, I kept an eye out for a trash can, any trash can, any where, only to find none.

My friend mentioned that the Department of Natural Resources also runs the nearby Fort Harrison State Park Inn and Golf Resort. She complained that she has to pay admission to the Ft Harrison State Park but it seems unable to provide even basic levels of service in return for membership. She also wonders if her membership fee for the park is subsidizing the Inn and Golf Resort.

I wonder if they have trash cans at the golf resort?


  1. Dear Indy Student,
    First of all, thanks for cleaning up after Quest and for keeping your dog on a leash. Dogs off leash can chase wildlife or make life uncomfortable for other visitors, so we appreciate your good citizenship!

    You raise several questions that we are happy to answer about Indiana State Parks. First, all Indiana State Parks have an admission fee - it is not a "membership" - and have had since the park system was formed in 1916. Our founders believed that users should contribute to the operation of the park through fees, and today, approximately 70% of our operating funds come from those user fees. Approximately 30% comes from General Fund tax dollars appropriated by the State Legislature in the 2-year budget. That ends up being only about $1.39 per person in State taxes annually, which is a pretty good deal. The park entrance fee can be paid as a daily fee (currently $7/vehicle for in-state license plates in most locations) OR if you plan to visit state parks frequently you can purchase an annual pass that is good at ANY of the 32 Indiana State Parks and also at State Forest Recreation Areas that charge entrance fees. That annual pass is available at parks and also online at You can read more about our fees and how/why we charge them at

    You also asked about trash cans. Since the early 1990's we have practiced "carry-in, carry-out" with trash from picnics and other day uses. (Our campgrounds have trash containers.) We ask you to take home what you bring in. This has greatly reduced issues in picnic areas where bees, raccoons and other animals who loved to raid trash cans were frequently found, and sometimes caused unfortunate interactions with people. "Carry-in, carry-out" is healthier for wildlife and also helps us to reduce some labor costs.

    Fort Harrison State Park Inn and Golf Resort, are a part of the state park, but their funding sources are for the most part different than the funding sources for the main part of the park. DNR does own the buildings (the inn, the Garrison, etc.) so State Parks funds maintenance when it is needed but operational needs for the inn and golf resort are paid for through inn and golf resort revenue.

    If you would like to learn more about Indiana State Parks, please visit There's lots of great info about where parks are and the facilities and services we offer.

    Ginger Murphy, Deputy Director for Stewardship
    Indiana State Parks

    1. Hi Ginger. Thanks for the response. I visited Turkey Run State Park a few weeks back and there were signs clearly displaying the carry in, carry out policy in regards to every day users. I didn't see it when I visited Post Road State Park except in regards to large groups and picnics. To me, that didn't communicate the policy clearly. Maybe signage in other parts of the park is clear, or I suppose I could've missed it (though I did look quite thoroughly).

      My apologies in not publishing this comment sooner as I don't blog regularly at this time. But thank you for your response. I'll try to follow up with you by email as well.


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