Mill Race Park
Coordinates: Mill Race Park is a city-owned park located in Columbus, Indiana (Bartholomew County) where the Flat Rock and the Driftwood rivers join together (forming the east fork of the White River) in downtown Columbus.
Historically, Mill Race Park was an impoverished area of Columbus. During the 1930s through the early 1960s the area was plagued by rodents, disease and sub-standard housing. Located in a flood plain the homes were prone to flooding, creating an inhospitable place to live; the area became known as "Death Valley". In 1963, the park site was purchased by the city and cleaned up, transforming it into the first iteration of Mill Race Park (originally called Tipton Park). In the late 1980s a redesign and update was awarded to Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, resulting in the completion of the current design of Mill Race Park in 1993.
In the 19th century, wood was plentiful in the United States, and thus was often used to build covered bridges. This was done to protect the plank floors from the harsh winter weather. While many bridges are over a century old and are still in use, there are only just over 1,000 of them remaining in North America. Indiana has more than ninety such structures.
Mill Race park is composed of 83 acres (340,000 m2) including a playground and an 84 ft (26 m) observation tower. The land is subject to severe annual flooding, during which sixty percent of the park is under water. The site features a loop road around the perimeter of the park, path systems, and two small lakes connected by a wooden bridge.
Key design features include a circular lake to contrast the soft natural curves of the surrounding river. The circular lake is defined by a masonry walk at its perimeter and surrounded by flowering trees. An earthen amphitheater, inspired by Native American earthworks found in the Ohio River Valley, is located at the end of a broad field, and forms a crest of land that remains above the water during floods. The covered bridge harkens back to the local history of numerous covered bridges found across the landscape.
The park also offers fishing, basketball courts, and the People Trail. An interpretive boardwalk that ties the existing park wetland to a path system that continues into the surrounding community. Access to the park is provided by a loop road and the introduction of a river walk. Additionally the park is home to numerous events, festivities, and programs throughout the year.
- Columbus, Indiana city site