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Green Acres

April 21, 2010—IUP’s Student Cooperative Association—“The Co-op”—owns and operates a 270-acre park and maintains a sailing base in Yellow Creek State Park. Explore the history and amenities of these green spaces.

The trail winds up and down for ten miles through deeply wooded forest, occasionally breaking into clearings that offer views into valleys or up to nearby hills.

Wildlife hides all around, with deer quietly stepping through the brush or bounding away at the sound of a footfall. Even a bear might be glimpsed foraging in the distance. Also, in the distance (if the season is right) the happy shrieks of riders of toboggans and inner tubes might be heard as they careen down a long, snow-covered slope toward the ski hut. At night, a fire pit illuminates campers and throws shadows on tents. A few miles away (and a few months later), rented sailboats and canoes glide to and from a small wharf on a lake surrounded by a state park.

All of this, and more, is found at two under-appreciated features offered by IUP: the 270 acres of the Co-op Recreational Park and the IUP Sailing Base at Yellow Creek State Park.

ski hut 1

The Ski Hut's large windows and open deck give a clear view of the ski slope opposite.

50s lodge

A 1950s gathering inside the College Lodge

The Recreational Park had its origins in 1927, when the students and faculty of the newly named State Teachers College (previously Indiana Normal School) formed a nonprofit corporation to own and operate the College Lodge structure and one hundred surrounding acres. The Indiana Students Lodge Association developed the lodge as a center for outings, picnics, and nature study through annual contributions of the faculty and from funds of the Student Cooperative Association (SCA). The association operated the lodge property until 1960, when the Student Lodge Association and the SCA merged into the Student Cooperative Association, Inc. (Co-op).

In 1972, the Co-op bought an additional 170 acres of attached land. This property soon came to be known informally as the University Farm, and for good reason. In the spirit of the back-to-nature movement of the 1970s and early 1980s [remember Euell Gibbons?], plots of land could be rented by members of the university community. Many students and faculty members had little gardens where they grew vegetables, flowers, and other plants and herbs. For a few years in the early ’80s, a farm manager was employed to oversee the garden plots and grow some livestock for slaughter, but the position didn’t last long.

The 1970s saw many improvements to the farm. A several-acre pond was added to help with fire control. Stocked with fish, it was and remains a locale for casual fishing.

A ten-mile trail system was constructed. This led off the university property and into Whites Woods to the north of Indiana borough, eventually circling back to the lodge. An arrangement between IUP and the Indiana Parks and Recreation Office allowed people from the community and the university to have full use of the trail through both properties.

The original hundred-acre property included a ski slope and two rope tows. Skiing was popular, and the site employed IUP students trained as certified National Ski Patrollers. But through the ’70s and early ’80s, the amount of snow and the corresponding length of the ski season decreased from year to year. Unfortunately, the amount of time and the cost to train students remained the same, increasing the overall cost of operations each year. Eventually, the Co-op board eliminated the skiing operation, and the two tow towers were removed in the mid-1980s.

pond1

The pond and picnic pavilion at the University Farm

The original ski hut was torn down and a new one was constructed; it is currently used by campus organizations and departments. The structure offers an atmosphere similar to the lodge and can be rented for similar functions.

The trails remain open and are used for cross-country skiing, and the ski slope is used for sledding, tobogganing, and tubing. A rustic campsite was also developed at the farm, where spaces can be reserved for camping. Equipment such as cross-country skis, backpacks, tents, and more can be rented at either the ski hut or the Hadley Union Building (HUB).

The 1970s saw an eighteen-station Fitness Par Course added to a two-and-a-half-mile section of the trail, and an archery range was built and has been in use ever since. (A small sinkhole at the range needed to be filled in this year, but the archery range will be reopened by Fall 2010.)

par course 1

The trails are extensive, but you won’t get lost.

In 1983, all 270 acres, only three miles from the IUP campus, were renamed the Co-op Recreational Park. Two ballfields were added and were used by the women’s varsity softball team for practice. Today, the team practices at the South Campus fields, but the park’s ballfields are still used by university intramurals and are rented for use by Indiana community sports teams. A sand volleyball court and an eighteen-hole disk golf course provide more options.

A picnic pavilion built near the pond is still used for events and outings by individuals and university departments. The Biology Department and ROTC both make use of the park for some of their labs.

Up until the early 2000s, buses would travel to the park on Family Weekends. Students and their families would visit the lodge and be served free hot chocolate and donuts, then receive tours and be able to walk the trails. The IndiGo trolleys (part of the Indiana County Transit Authority) still run out to the park several times a year, usually tied in with student orientation. The frequency of the trips, however, has been reduced lately due to a budget crunch.

sail1

Sailboats and canoes are just some of what can be rented at the Yellow Creek sailing base.

In addition to the Recreational Park, the university used to own lakefront property at Yellow Creek State Park, about twelve miles from campus. At the time, students could learn sailing and canoeing at the lake in order to fulfill their health and physical education requirements. But the university’s general requirements changed, and eventually the classes were no longer offered. The use of the building and equipment at Yellow Creek dropped dramatically, finally becoming too expensive to maintain. The Co-op board did away with the program, and for one year there was no sailing or canoeing at all from the site.

But on the other side of the lake, a concession stand that rented paddleboats went out of business. The Co-op, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, bought the vendor’s operation and equipment. The state bought pontoon boats and other equipment, and, with the Co-op’s previous sailing and canoeing equipment, the operation reopened in 1998. The facility is now in the midst of its second ten-year lease.

A Co-op Recreational Park and IUP Sailing Base Scrapbook

Click any image to start a slideshow.

This sign greets visitors at the park entrance.

The Co-op maintains the Yellow Creek sailing base with student employees, splitting the proceeds with the state. Anyone, not just students, can use the facilities for sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, and nautical crafts.

Dennis Hulings was a sailing instructor at the original base. He joined the Co-op in 1974 and given the task of developing the farm and Yellow Creek properties and programs for use. Now executive director and CEO of the Student Cooperative Association, Hulings notes that the current operation really became a model for the state.

Overall, he’s proud of how the parks have evolved and of IUP’s role in expanding their use.

“This demonstrates the university’s commitment to work with the community,” Hulings said. “Not a lot of schools can offer students access to a 270-acre park.”

This is the view from near the stage in the early 1980s during one of the last Farm Days.
Farm Day attracted people from the university and the community, plus a number of Frisbee-chasing dogs.
Attendees didn’t need to be near the stage to enjoy Farm Day.
At one time, the University Farm was home to a small number of livestock.
The ball field at the park is well maintained.
This pavilion sits at the edge of the pond at the University Farm.
The pond at the University Farm
The pond at the University Farm
Field and forest are featured at the farm.
One of the many trails through the Recreational Park
One of the many trails through the Recreational Park
One of the many trails through the Recreational Park
Off the beaten path in the Recreational Park
One of the many trails through the Recreational Park
One of the eighteen stations on the Fitness Par Course
Each Par Course station has exercise instructions.
An open-air pavilion provides some cover at the campground.
A clearing next to the campground
One of the many trails through the Recreational Park
One of the eighteen holes on the disk golf course
Looking back while climbing to the next hole on the disk golf course
A downhill view on the disk golf course
The College Lodge (right) at the entrance to the Recreational Park
Some of the park trails double as disk golf fairways
The College Lodge
The College Lodge has been the scene of countless events.
Even when the world was black and white, the University Farm was still a relaxing destination.
Renting water craft at Yellow Creek State Park is a surefire way to cool off on a hot day.

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