West Boggs Park, "Southwestern Indiana's Best Kept Secret"

Part of the beautiful shoreline at West Boggs Park

West Boggs Park, located in
Martin and Daviess counties, bills itself as "Southwestern Indiana's Best Kept Secret". Pssst! SouthernIn.com readers, I think the secret's out. The park is so popular now that they have to hold a drawing for reservations on the big holiday weekends. Don't be discouraged though, they still have plenty of room to accommodate you on many other weekends or weekdays throughout the season, but reservations are always helpful.

Though technically a county park, it could easily pass for a state park. With a 622 acre lake and 1500 total acreage it has the space to accommodate a lot of activities for a lot of people. The lake itself is obviously the featured attraction, but you will find over 200 large campsites (all of them with water and electric hook-ups), hiking trails, organized activities, shelter houses, a beach for swimming, play areas for kids and even an old amphitheater that is scheduled for renovation. They also have both pontoon boats and john boats available to rent.

The beach at West Boggs Park

This park, which is unique in that it is jointly owned by two different counties, hasn't always enjoyed so much success. Coordinating the efforts of two separate counties and trying to administer one park can present many challenges, as one could easily imagine. The park seemed to struggle since it first opened its gates in 1972.

According to park superintendent Mike Axsom, "we were about a month from closing the gate" in 1994. That's when Mike came in and decided to try something new. He decided to try to operate the park self-sufficiently by using only the money brought in with user fees and not accept any money from the county governments. This "created a whole new paradigm for parks management", according to Axsom.

This "new paradigm" has been a spectacular success. Over the past five years the park has been completely self-sufficient and also debt-free. User fees currently amount to over 100 percent of operating costs, with the surplus used for renovations and improvements.

You can rent pontoon boats or john boats

Running the park more like a business has also resulted in adopting a more businesslike approach to customer satisfaction. Instead of letting the experts tell the public what they should do, West Boggs Park actually asks for feedback and suggestions from their visitors, whom they think of as "customers". Again their unique approach has met apparent success. Seventy-five percent of their customers are from out of state and many of them are return visitors.

Five years ago the lake was drained and restocked. Now "we're one of the best fishing holes within 500 miles!" boasts Mike. Several customers with seasonal passes come from St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Chicago. Some of the fish you could expect to catch in the lake are bass, redear, channel cats and black crappie. A lake survey in June found no undesirable species.

At West Boggs Park they focus on resource conservation. The lake is the attraction, so a main focus is on taking care of the lake. Two wetland areas have been constructed which act as filters for incoming water. They have also stabilized eroding shoreline and enacted local legislation around property that would affect the lake. The park owns the entire shoreline for at least 100 feet around the entire perimeter so there are no homes right on the lake. There are homes with lake access, but they have to abide by strict regulations concerning their property.

New this year they are also implementing something they call "Fun Programming". This new programming will focus on having organized activities where visitors are encouraged to jump in and participate. Activities will include things like volleyball, sack races, beach tug-o-war, trail hikes, dances etc. as well as more passive activities like bingo, camp cooking contests, campfire talks, storytelling, and much, much more.

For a change of pace, West Boggs also has a golf course and a lakeside restaurant on site. The restaurant is called Stoll's Lakeview and sits right on the lake. It features Amish buffet-style dining, and Friday night seafood buffets.

Bicyclists enjoying the well-maintained grounds at West Boggs Park

All in all, West Boggs Park has everything you could want in a park and more. For more information about this great Southern Indiana destination call (812) 295-3421 or visit their web site at http://www.dmrtc.net/~boggs or e-mail [email protected].

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