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By VINCE LUECKE
ROME — A parcel of land former Gov. Edgar Whitcomb described as having a “heavenly” view will pass into public hands and become Perry County’s first state park.Gov. Mitch Daniels joined Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, Department of Natural Resources Director Rob Carter and dozens of the former governor’s friends and neighbors Monday to announce the sale of the 140 acres Whitcomb purchased in the 1990s. It will become a nature park and retreat.
“Today would be a fabulous moment if we just stumbled over this land, if it had no particular person attached to it,” Daniels said to Whitcomb in a ceremony attended by about 100 people on the courthouse lawn in Rome where Whitcomb lives. “But the fact that it’s yours and the fact that you yourself have been such a significant figure in the 200 years of statehood we’re ready to celebrate just makes this perfect.”
The acquisition is the latest achievement of the Bicentennial Nature Trust, an initiative launched by Daniels to protect conservation and recreation areas across the state as a way to celebrate Indiana’s 200th year of statehood in 2016.
“There couldn’t be a better way to celebrate the bicentennial than having these new genuine conservation projects throughout our state and to have them completed so we can erect a bicentennial sign on them in the year 2016,” said Skillman. “Today we are actually celebrating the foresight, the vision and the great leadership of two governors.”
The Department of Natural Resources and Whitcomb agreed on a purchase price of $300,000, about half the appraised value of the property. It will be named the Edgar D. Whitcomb Nature Park and Retreat.
“I got word the DNR was interested in the property,” said Whitcomb. He was looking to sell the property, which he first spotted from the river and which he said has no equal.
“As time went by I waited and waited and waited for this day. I’m so happy to see this come to fruition.”
The 144-acre Whitcomb property in Perry County is surrounded by Hoosier National Forest. The heavily wooded site rests on limestone and sandstone outcroppings and cliffs that overlook the Ohio River.
Several rare and uncommon plants are found on the property, including resurrection fern, heart-leaved noseburn, pink thoroughwort and a subspecies of downy phlox named after Charles Deam, Indiana’s first state forester and botanist.
The property includes three historic log cabins and a small maintenance barn.
Preliminary plans are to manage the site as a retreat that provides the public an opportunity to experience nature in a remote setting.
Whitcomb was elected Indiana governor in 1968 and served one term. After leaving office, he practiced law in Indianapolis and was director of the Mid American World Trade Association before retiring to southern Indiana.
Whitcomb, who served as grand marshal for Cannelton’s 175th anniversary parade, restored a historical home near Rome’s square.