Located in, Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park is about 12 miles northeast of downtown Indianapolis and is a 1,700-acre park consisting of the largest forest in Central Indiana. After the U.S. Department of Defense announced the closure of as a military base in April 1991, government agencies and civilian organizations on local, state, and federal levels worked together to set aside about 70 percent of the base’s land for public use as an Indiana state park.
The 90 years of military presence at Forth Harrison had the unforeseen benefit of protecting new forest growth. The military’s strategic multiuse of land, reforestation projects, and construction of park-like facilities, such as hiking trails, prepped the land for a future as a park. Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources leased this land from the U.S. Army to protect it from future deforestation, pollution, and real estate development.
Fort Harrison State Park officially opened to the public in October 1996, with incrementally expanded park facilities over the next five years. The park has about 1,000 acres of uncut forest growth that is intertwined with 9 miles of hiking trails along, 4 nature preserves (about 600 acres total), a protected blue heron rookery, and 3 man-made lakes for fishing. Biking, hiking, fishing, birding, various sports fields, picnic areas, horse trails, and a dog park are all available for park visitors.
The park’s interpretive center serves as the park’s office, an exhibit space, wildlife viewing room, a multi-purpose conference, and restrooms. The exhibit space boasts a series of exhibits about the natural resources as well as the history of the park’s land. Close to the interpretive center lies the Museum of Twentieth-Century Warfare, a private, non-profit museum with several exhibit displays featuring technology, artifacts, and uniforms of American soldiers.
The Fort Harrison Inn, located on the southeast part of the park in the former officer’s quarters, offers overnight lodging and event spaces available for the public to rent. The park also owns the Fort Golf Course, which features an 18-hole golf course and driving range (designed by the well-known), and the adjacent Garrison Restaurant that serves lunch daily and weekend buffets.
The park also preserves two historic districts (Fort Benjamin Harrison and Camp Glenn Historic Districts) listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Barracks and housing once used by Fort Benjamin Harrison personnel have been renovated for private use, but they are still encompassed by the park. Camp Glenn Historic District is located on the southwest part of the park, covers about 18 acres, which include six buildings originally constructed in 1933 to serve both as lavatories as a training ground and housing for military and civilian groups posted at the base in the interwar years. Camp Glenn Historic District especially reminds visitors of the park’s former military days.