Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 30, 2009

Steer away from the usual at Highland Park

Old Ben is just one of dozens of attractions at Kokomo’s most visited park.

By Daniel Human

Most of Kokomo knows about the bovine behemoth that sits sheltered next to the oversized stump in Highland Park.

But beyond ogling the 4,500-pound steer and ancient, sawed-off sycamore, at the end of Old Ben Court in Highland Park lies the forested 83 acres that is filled with crowds of hundreds, if not thousands, during any of the 30 to 40 events held there during the year.

Monica Reed, office manager for the Kokomo Parks & Recreation Department, said Highland Park has the largest draws out of any city park during the year. The largest event is WWKI’s annual car show, she said, which organizers have reported attracts up to 4,000 people.

The Elwood Haynes Museum, Vermont covered bridge, disc golf course and walking and hiking paths are a few of the features that represent the park’s serene atmosphere and rich history.

At the top of the hill on Old Ben Court sits the road’s 2 1/2-ton namesake, the Sycamore Stump and the Kokomo Cannon.

In the valley below the Howard County historical hodgepodge is where car shows and other community events schedule the grounds for the weekends. Across from the red covered bridge is the theater, which is home to Kokomo Park Band performances and other shows.

Across Defenbaugh Street, the paved footpath on Stadium Drive takes visitors past the park’s Little League diamonds and Kokomo Stadium.

Outside of special events, Reed said, the baseball fields draw in the largest crowds during the warmer months.

On the other side of the foot path, picnic shelters are scattered throughout the grounds with Kokomo Creek trickling a few feet away. Past the shelters is a disc golf course for anyone wanting to put down the clubs for a weekend and pick up a Frisbee.

The asphalt walkway ends at Webster Street, where Elwood Haynes’ house has sat as a museum for more than 30 years, since the local business titan’s descendants donated it to the city.

For the park’s more intrepid visitors, the wooded palisade on the south side of the creek shelters a more adventurous walkway.

A dirt trail leads through the wooded balcony on the creek’s craggy southern bank. Wear grubby shoes or boots for this path because loose, rolling log crossings can result in a plop down into ankle-deep mud.

Reed said the parks department expects to reserve picnic shelters and other park amenities for several more weeks.

But once the bathrooms close for the winter months, she said, the crowds tend to dissipate.

• Daniel Human is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He can be reached at (765) 454-8570 or at daniel.human@kokomotribune.com.