The future of what’s been described as Bartholomew County’s most beautiful but overlooked nature area will be the focus of a meeting and open house this week.

Proposed goals and strategies for Anderson Falls Park will be presented to the Bartholomew County Park Board at 3 p.m. Thursday.

The 44-acre park near Hartsville on County Road 1140E, where problems have occurred for years, continues to be targeted by vandals.

Most recently, deputies have been called to the park in eastern Bartholomew County 36 times this year. But park board member Dave Apple said it’s so far away from normal patrol areas that the culprits causing trouble are usually gone long before officers arrive.

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Anderson Falls is located about 13 miles east of Columbus, a 20-minute drive by car, just shy of the Bartholomew-Decatur county line.

Parks board members are anticipating a large turnout Thursday inside the first-floor commissioners chambers of the Bartholomew County Governmental Office Building, 440 Third St., Apple said.

Seven draft goals and strategies developed over the past year-and-a-half through a Purdue Extension program, Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces, will be presented to the Park Board.

Make the park welcoming in terms of information, wayfinding, maintenance, safety and access.

Develop well-maintained trails as well as rich native flora free from invasive species.

Provide information about the park, on-site and at other locations.

Promote awareness and protection of Anderson Falls Park through community participation and social media to help discourage vandalism and other criminal activity.

Create awareness of the park’s cultural and natural history opportunities, and encourage appropriate groups to take advantage of them.

Utilize funding and planning to meet future recreational needs with an appropriately planned public space built around an outstanding natural feature.

Make Anderson Falls Park a success story in the development of a resource that offers enriching historical, natural and cultural experiences in an environment that is welcoming, safe and staffed.

Sponsored by the Purdue Extension program committee, the presentation and open house will be informational only, Apple said. The parks board is not likely to vote on specific proposals regarding Anderson Falls Park for another four to six months, he said.

Development of goals and strategies for Anderson Falls began last year after stakeholder meetings in Hartsville and Columbus, said Kris Medic, extension educator and committee member.

These concepts were later refined during committee work sessions, she said.

The group has made a conscious effort to keep goals and strategies broad in order to encourage ideas and public participation, committee member Linda Glick said.

Glick said she wants to promote the rich history of the park, named after David Anderson (1798-1882), a New Jersey native who homesteaded the land in the 1830s.

A descendant of Anderson and member of the Bartholomew County Historical Society board of directors, Glick said the Anderson Falls area played an important and fascinating role in local history.

For example, there were two separate Fall Forks of Clifty Creek in the mid-19th century, Glick said. The Anderson family operated a grist mill on one fork, a saw mill on the other, and ran a general store, she said.

Plenty of evidence of a now-lost small community — including a 19th-century United Brethren church converted into a barn — can still be found in the area, Glick said.

Apple said he expects most of the people attending Thursday’s meeting will want to provide some form of assistance in the park’s development.

Proposals and ideas brought up at Thursday’s open house will be compiled and presented to the parks board at a later date, Medic said.

Police calls

36 incidents, actions or calls at Anderson Falls County Park were handled by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department this year through the end of October.

21: Requests for extra patrols

7: Suspicious person or vehicle reported

3: Allergic reactions

2:  Loud noise or other issue

1: 911 investigation

1: Public intoxication

1: Slide-off

Source: Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department

If you go

What: A special public meeting before the Bartholomew County Park Board to discuss recommendations of an action plan to improve Anderson Falls Park.

When: 3 p.m. Thursday.

Where: The chambers of the Bartholomew County Commissioners, located on the first floor of the Bartholomew County Governmental Office Building, Third and Franklin streets.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.