Heflen Park officials looking into campground expansion and correcting sewer system issues

Just as one major project at Heflen Park is completed, another significant expense at the German Township riverside park is looming on the horizon.

A year-long project to preserve the camping area at the German Township park has been completed, Bartholomew County Park Director Rich Day announced.

In February 2023, a $68,000 Lake and River Enhancement (LARE) grant was awarded to handle water erosion at the park, located off County Road 700N west of Taylorsville. He said the erosion had caused the banks of the Driftwood River to recede about 10 feet over the last decade.

Using county employees as labor whenever possible, he said his staff worked in conjunction with Blue’s Canoes and the Bartholomew County Soil and Water Conservation District to stop the erosion.

His department also paid an additional $3,210 to trim branches hanging over the river, cut down a small number of trees and plant an even larger number of saplings, he said.

But the new expenses have to do with Heflen Park’s sewage collection system, which was designed in the late 1980s to handle 26 campsites and shelter house events. Today, there are 37 campsites and park offices, as well as the shelter house, that has the finger system working at overcapacity, consulting engineer Charlie Day of DLZ Indiana said.

Since the popularity of Heflen Park has grown substantially in recent years, Charlie Day said the county initially wanted to increase the septic system capacity to create additional campsites.

“But the problem is that the system was not installed correctly,” the engineer said. “ I learned that while the septic fingers were installed in the late 1980s, they were put in the opposite direction of what they should be.”

Extending the septic fingers to add capacity and increase the septic tanks capacity would required permits and approval from the Indiana Department of Health, both men said.

“That may be difficult, since (the finger system) is not installed correctly,” said Charlie Day, who said the cost of replacing and expanding the entire system could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Bartholomew County Health Department never approved the septic system in the late 1980s, but after state officials issued Heflen a permit, local officials did not voice opposition, Rich Day explained.

A possibly less costly option involves abandoning the finger system, Charlie Day said. He is proposing to install a lift station and pump the sewage through a 2-inch line out of the park. The line would continue underground along the right of way of three segments of county roads until it reaches an access point with Driftwood Utilities, he said.

If arrangements can be worked out with all parties involved, the sewage line would be fed into a Driftwood Utilities pipe that eventually leads to a wastewater treatment facility, Charlie Day said.

After this problem is addressed, the parks department plans to create six to eight more campsites on the back of the dam at Heflen Park, Rich Day said. His department has also applied to obtain an easement from Heflen to Newton Park for a walking trail. If the application is approved, another four camping sites could be added, the parks director said.

DLZ Indiana proposed a contract last year for the design portion of the work that would not exceed $33,500, Charlie Day said. The design phase also includes shop drawings, approval, and requests for changes, the DLZ engineer said.

But research is still being done into the cost of constructing a lift station and extending the sewage line to the Driftwood Utilities manhole. Besides design and construction, Charlie Day says he doesn’t not know at this time what the monthly sewage bill would be.

Heflen Park has already raised its rates in anticipation of the high cost project, Rich Day said.

DLZ and county parks personnel hope to present all options to the Bartholomew County Council before they formally ask for funding.