PUTNAM COUNTY PARKS BOARD
BENJAMIN FOX, PRESIDENT
Ben is president of the Putnam County Parks Board and chairman of the Reelsville Community Center. His passion for community enrichment prompted him to purchase the former Reelsville Elementary School in 2019 with the vision to protect the property from demolition and repurpose it for the livelihood and future of the community, especially its children. The Reelsville Community Center is a 501(c)(3) established in 2021.
Ben grew up in Reelsville and graduated from South Putnam High School in 1995 with additional studies at the American Military University and the University of Maryland. He is a 2019 graduate of the United States Army Sergeant Major Academy and retired in 2020 after serving 26 years in the United States Army. He and his wife, Nicole, live in Reelsville with their two sons. Together, they enjoy many outdoor activities, including fishing, hiking, camping, ATVs, and cleaning up overgrown areas.
HOLLY COOK, VICE-PRESIDENT
Holly has lived in Roachdale, in the northern part of Putnam County, for 20 years. Extremely active in the county’s civic life, she is president of the Roachdale Town Council; secretary of the Roachdale Revitalization Cooperative Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to downtown beautification; a member of the Historic Preservation Society, Delta Theta Tau charitable sorority; and a member of the Roachdale Park Board.
A Strategic Buyer for Rolls-Royce, in Indianapolis, and a lifelong learner, Holly enjoys hiking and exploring the outdoors. Recently, she’s been studying wildflowers, mycology and wild plants – mainly edible and invasive ones. She also is interested in rock and mineral identification in Indiana and other areas of the country. International cooking is another in a long list of passions and, when traveling, the local cuisine and culture are as important to her as the sightseeing.
After graduating from Purdue, with a degree in agronomy, Sara worked in schools in West Central Indiana for nine years, including five years as a biology and chemistry teacher. In 2019, she was named executive director of the Putnam County Soil & Water Conservation District, and she, her husband John and their two daughters moved to Greencastle. The Putnam County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is a government organization dedicated to helping residents and land owners in Putnam County preserve our natural resources. The SWCD can help with identifying natural resource concerns and getting technical assistance to help with those concerns. The SWCD office is co-located in the USDA Service Center in Greencastle.
Sara says she learned a lot about identifying plants by participating in FFA in high school. Today she is a member of PC RIP, the county’s task force to educate the public about invasive plants and work to remove invasive plants in public areas in Putnam County. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking trails and camping.
Darrell lives near where his great-grandparents, grandparents and parents lived. He has always had a Russellville address. After graduating from Indiana State University with an education degree, he moved back to Russellville, serving as a teacher and principal and completing a 48-year career in education by serving on the North Putnam School Board in retirement.
In the Russellville Community Church, Darrell has been an elder, Sunday School teacher and superintendent, choir director and member, pianist, organist, song leader, and church board member. He has served on the Putnam County Red Cross Committee, the 4-H Council, on the 4-H Fair Board for 13 years, and on the Community Foundation Board for five. For nearly 25 years he has been president of the Russellville Community Center Board, a role he continues with today. Of all this, and there’s certainly more, Darrell says one of his proudest moments was carrying the torch in the Putnam County Torch Relay that celebrated Indiana’s bicentennial in 2016.
Darrell and his wife, Cindy, who passed away in 2020, raised four children. He now spends time enjoying six grandchildren, with a seventh due soon.
Greg grew up in Belle Union, graduated from South Putnam High School and has lived in Cloverdale since graduating with construction management and architectural technology degrees from Indiana State University in 1984. From there, his life has come full-circle. After college, Greg worked for Alan Stanley and Associates (ASA), in Greencastle, and then for MSE Corporation, in Indianapolis. After earning a civil engineering degree from Purdue, and his Professional Surveyor License, he acquired ASA Land Surveying in 2006 and became the firm’s president and co-owner.
Greg and his wife, Debbie, raised four children in Cloverdale – Jacob, Miranda, Hannah, and Anne Marie. When their children were young, Greg and Debbie’s lives revolved around their various activities. He is still involved with many community groups that serve the county and its residents. In addition to being a member of the Putnam County Parks Board, he is treasurer of the Camp Friend board, an assistant scoutmaster for Cloverdale Boy Scouts of America Troop 93 and a member of the Wabash Valley Eagle Scout Board of Review Committee. He’s also a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Cloverdale Building Corporation, the Putnam County Antique Tractor & Machinery Association, and was recently elected to serve as the Putnam County Surveyor.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The Putnam County Parks Board was created in July, 2021, by action of the County Council to oversee the county’s 18 miles of People Pathways, which the county acquired ownership of earlier in the year. The board’s five members hail from all corners of the county. Ben Fox, Reelsville, is president; Holly Cook, Roachdale, is vice president; and they are joined by Greg Williams, Cloverdale; Allison Leer, Greencastle; and Darrell Wiatt, Russellville.
Working with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Purdue University’s “Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces” program, the Parks Board gathered public input through the remainder of 2021 to prep for creating a five-year master plan for outdoor recreation in Putnam County.
More than 750 people participated in the planning through in-person meetings, group presentations and an online survey. The board encouraged residents to think of the potential as a blank slate, with the sky as the limit, with this being one of those rare occasions where people with an agenda were strongly encouraged to participate and share their ideas.
The first draft of the plan was submitted to the IDNR prior to the January, 2022, deadline. After its review, the plan was revised, resubmitted and approved by the IDNR in April, 2022.
The Parks Board will accomplish the goals in the five-year plan through a collaborative, multi-organizational effort. In February, 2021, People Pathways moved its headquarters to the Putnam County Visitors Center and incorporated as Putnam Parks & Pathways to create a bigger tent, one that includes all things outdoor recreation-related. This 15-member board with a large volunteer base is the DOERS.
In May, 2021, Friends of the Park of Putnam County moved to the Visitors Center to share resources and more closely align its work with Putnam Parks & Pathways and the Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). The county’s parks foundation for more than 25 years, Friends of the Park is a 501c3 with a board with experience in applying for and accepting grants and offering a tax deduction to individuals and corporations that support outdoor recreation through gifts. This group is the FUNDERS.
In July, the ordinance the County Council adopted to create the County Parks Board stipulated it be headquartered in the Visitors Center. This group is the LEADERS. The CVB serves as the PROMOTERS, highlighting the outcomes of the plan and encouraging people to enjoy them.
For the first time, all the organizations have a storefront anyone can walk into for questions or to share ideas. All share a staff to support their work. All are working collaboratively.
And now we have a plan. After extensive public input, the plan reflects residents’ wants and aspirations. It extends from 2022 to 2026, divided into annual goals focused on placemaking, healthy eating and active living. Putnam Parks & Pathways will implement it. Friends of the Park will help fund it. The County Parks Board will coordinate the efforts and keep everything on track, and the CVB will promote everything that transpires.