|Bluff and marina at Bender Park|
I recently visited Bender Park with the Lake Park Friends group where Brian Russart, natural areas coordinator, and several of his interns led a hike that took us through old orchards, prairies, and along the lake bluffs. If you're not familiar with the natural areas program, you might go view the Facebook page. I've learned so much about native plants and animals from this resource.
We spent about 3 hours on this hike. There are 2 parking lots. One is near the prairie and old orchards. The other is at the marina, which is currently under construction. You can park at the first one you come to, and begin your hike through grasslands, ponds, and native trees. You should be aware that Bender Park is absolutely loaded with poison ivy, so if you veer off the trails, you will likely encounter some. I recommend wearing long pants and Brian suggests tucking pants into the socks to keep skin areas clean. The trail was quite wet in some places. Boy Scouts have built several structures in the park that make it easier to get over these wet patches, but you might want to wear waterproof hiking boots until we get a little drier weather.
|Poison ivy is shiny and somewhat red this time of year. Some also have flowers ready to bloom|
Bender Park has been in the news recently about a controversial purchase. They were trying to acquire additional land, but it would have meant hunting being allowed in the park. Because that didn't fit with the philosophy of this greenspace, the land was not purchased.
The park has had an interesting history, including stories of being haunted. Apparently there was a farmer who axed his wife and neighbor. As recent as early May 2013, ghost detectors brought equipment to the park at night hoping to find paranormal activity. You can see the video on youtube that explains the haunting and what they found or rather didn't find. You should know that the park does close at sunset, so you really aren't legally allowed to go hunting for ghosts under a full moon.
We didn't experience anything this interesting during our hike, but we did enjoy an immature bald eagle, along with dozens of other birds, tadpoles in a pond, a snake, toad, and prairie crayfish. If you like hiking in natural areas, this is a great place. The apple orchards are about done blooming, but later this summer, the fields will be full of flowers...and perhaps mosquitoes.
|Pond where tiger salamander breed|
|immature bald eagle in flight|
|Butler gartersnake found underneath one of the research boards|