Pre-Eagle Creek Park
1934 J.K. Lilly Jr., brother of Eli Lilly, bought a 12-acre tract of land at the site of Eagle Creek Park.
1935 Lilly built Eagle Crest Estate, which included a library (now the Ornithology Center), lodge, watchman’s cabin, and swimming pool. Norway spruce trees planted at the time still mark the east and south boundaries of the original property.
1937 Lilly purchased three farms in the valley and called them Eagle Valley Farms. Over the next 20 years, he acquired more land east of Eagle Creek and reforested the area. He named it Eagle Crest Forest Reserve, and it was protected by a fire tower (located northeast of the Ornithology Center).
1958 Lilly donated Eagle Crest Estate, Eagle Valley Farms, and East Crest Forest to Purdue University over a period of five years.
1960 After the 1957 flood caused considerable damage across the west side of Marion County, a city proposal was submitted to create a reservoir and park by damming Eagle Creek reservoir and purchasing land from Purdue University.
1964 Mayor Barton asked for support of a recreational area, reservoir, and flood control. Financing was provided by two bond issues and federal grants. The original park master plan proposed that the park be self-sufficient, with revenues generated from entry and concession fees.
1966 Indianapolis purchased 2,286 acres from Purdue for $3.2 million, and dam construction was initiated.
1970 The reservoir was full and open for limited use, and construction on other park facilities continued.Follow Eagle Creek Park History on Facebook for more photos and fun facts!
Eagle Creek Park until present day
1972 Mayor Lugar officially opened Eagle Creek Park as the fourth largest municipal park in the nation, and the Eagle Creek Park Advisory Committee is established as the first “friends group” in the Indy Parks system.
1973 The Eagle Creek Park Nature Center opened in J.K. Lilly’s library building after renovation by Director Harry Feldman.
1978 The Eagle Creek Park Foundation was formed with just nine members, and provided a source of extra budget financing, especially for major items like interpark transport.
1979 The need for a development director was identified, as well as a need for seed money. The Foundation published its first newsletter called Eagletails. We also conducted golf tournaments, running races like the Double Eagle, and other events.
1983 The Fitness Trail was constructed.
1984 Eagle’s Crest Nature Preserve on the west side of the reservoir was dedicated.
1986 A world-class rowing course was constructed in preparation for the 1987 Pan Am Games.
1987 Lilly Lodge was remodeled and opened for meetings and park programs. The water level of the reservoir was first lowered to provide a habitat for shore birds.
1991 The Scott Starling Nature Sanctuary was dedicated on the north end of the reservoir.
1994 The Foundation started to recognize the need for clearer objectives and growth of membership. At the time, there were only 95 members.
1995 The Foundation agreed on the need for a new Nature Center, but had to wait to move forward on the project until Holliday Park was completed.
1996 The Foundation obtains park board approval to sell Foundation passes to Foundation members at a discount. The Advisory Committee starts revision of the park master plan.
1997 The Foundation became the umbrella volunteer organization for Eagle Creek Park, and the Advisory Committee became a standing committee of the Foundation. The Indy Parks board approved the revision of the park master plan. Also, the Peace Learning Center opened at the former Indian Museum site after the collection was moved to the Eiteljorg Museum in 1989.
1998 The Fitness Trail was renovated, and a new park director was appointed. The Foundation started holding a golf tournament as its primary fundraiser, and built a website.
2007 The new Earth Discovery Center opened near the site of the old ranger station.
2009 The Nature Center reopened as the Ornithology Center after renovation by Naturalist Kevin Carlsen and his team of volunteers.
2013 The Iron Eagle Paddle & Run replaces the golf tournament as the Foundation’s primary fundraiser.