Oak Ridge Prairie
Directions to Oak Ridge Prairie & Oak Savannah Trail
Located southeast of Broad and Main Streets in Griffith. Travel east from Broad on Main Street to Colfax Street. Turn south on Colfax Street. Travel 1/2 mile to the park.
- Oak Ridge Prairie: 41.51769,-87.413623
- Oak Savannah Trailhead West: 41.522783,-87.389365
- Oak Savannah Trailhead East: 41.547116,-87.221442
- Erie Lackawanna Trailhead North: 41.51916,-87.426841
- Erie Lackawanna Trailhead South: 41.449435,-87.374864
Welcome to Oak Ridge Prairie & Oak Savannah Trail
In 1979 Ninety acres in Griffith-Merrillville area were acquired by the park board. The future Oak Ridge Prairie County Park had its humble beginnings as a truck farm. While much of the future acreage on the west area of the park had been tilled, there were, and remain, significant areas of Oak Ridge Prairie that may be classified as pristine prairie. The following year, in 1980, 147 acres added to Oak Ridge Prairie, which was dedicated in October of 1983.
The Lake County Parks, through a land management plan which includes prairie plantings and prescribed burning, has restored hundreds of acres of the prairie. Oak Ridge Prairie offers stocked fishing, hiking trials, bird watching, picnic shelters, barbeque facilities, volleyball standards, open play fields, playground structures, sledding hill and cross country ski rentals.
The passive recreation aspects of ORP provide an excellent opportunity for bird and nature hikes, as well as other educational activities. Of special interest is the overlook accessible from the playground parking lot.
In 1987 ORP was awarded an Indiana Department of Natural Resources Commission grant that provided for the acquisition of 15.27 additional acres, containing a pond adjacent to the park site. The grant also included the installation of boundary fencing, extension of the trails, channel excavation, and the erection of a footbridge.
A Land and Water Conservation Fund grant was awarded in 1990 for additional development and in 2001 construction began on the Oak Savannah Bike Trail from Oak Ridge Prairie east to Porter County. The Oak Savannah multi-use asphalt trail opened on National Trails Day in June of 2004.
Oak Savannah Trail Head at Oak Ridge Prairie County Park
Trail users may enjoy the Oak Savannah Trail as it takes them on a journey through savannahs, remnant prairies, wetlands, lakes, parks, and residential neighborhoods. The Oak Savannah Trail (OST) comprises 8.25 miles from Oak Ridge Prairie County Park in Griffith to the Prairie Duneland Trail at the Lake/Porter County Line Road in Portage with a break in Hobart.
Trail users may access the western segment of the trail from the trail head near the parking lot at Oak Ridge Prairie County Park at 301 S Colfax Street in Griffith. This segment runs 6.25 miles to Wisconsin Street in Hobart. The eastern segment, following the Hobart break, may be accessed from a gravel parking lot at the northeast corner of Cleveland Street and State Road 51 in Hobart. This segment is 1.25 miles in length and takes users from the Cleveland/51 intersection to the Prairie Duneland Trail.
Citizens should exercise extreme caution as they use the OST because several at-grade road crossings have to be taken into consideration. Main, Chase, Harrison, Madison, Delaware, Georgia, Liverpool, and Union Streets all have moderate to heavy vehicular traffic that affects the OST.
The Lake County Parks and the City of Hobart are working together to close the gap between Wisconsin Street in Hobart and the Cleveland/51 intersection in the next few years. Any questions regarding this gap should be directed to the Hobart Parks Department.
Hayrides - a Popular Fall Activity at ORP
In addition to the regular hayrides offered in September and October, ORP hosts the only (to our knowledge) handicapped accessible hayride where participants remain in their wheelchair.
Lake County Parks Adds Ramp to Accommodate Special Recreation Needs
Visitors to Oak Ridge Prairie County Park have noticed a ramp that seemingly goes to nowhere, but it really serves an important purpose that was evident for the past few fall hayride seasons. On September 30, 2005 more than 100 people attended a special hayride at Oak Ridge Prairie in Griffith when the Lake County Parks, as part of CSRI, hosted hayrides equipped to carry people in wheelchairs. "Prior to this activity, those using wheelchairs had to be lifted out of their chairs and placed in the hay. Thanks to an in-house construction project by park staff, we are now able to wheel chairs up a ramp and lock them into place on the wagon. By building this permanent structure, we hope to serve a greater population during the fall months," says Carrie Crisan, the Lake County Parks representative on CSRI. "This is something that we would likely never thought to do without the CSRI partnership and input from parents. We've always tried to accommodate as many populations as possible, but sometimes it is just a simple matter of not knowing the need," Crisan added.
Understanding the Needs
That need was identified in 2003 when dozens of groups and individuals assembled at the invitation of the Munster Parks and Recreation Department to explore the possibilities of a partnership in providing special recreational opportunities in Northwest Indiana. To help the group better understand the needs, Janet Porter, Executive Director of the South Suburban Special Recreation Co-Op presented information on the Illinois model for special recreation programming.
From that initial gathering, CSRI and the following mission were identified. The Cooperative Special Recreation Initiative is a cooperative venture seeking ways to increase the recreational opportunities for individuals who have varying degrees of physical, mental and learning disabilities as well as emotional difficulties, hearing or visual impairments and developmental delays. The goal of CSRI is to offer to special populations recreational activities equal in diversity, frequency and quality to those available to people without disabilities, and to meet the individual needs of each participant.
Since the first informational meeting representatives from Crown Point Parks and Recreation, Dyer Parks and Recreation, Highland Parks and Recreation, Lake County Parks and Recreation, Merrillville Parks and Recreation, Munster Parks and Recreation, Schererville Parks and Recreation, St. John Parks and Recreation, Community Hospital, West Lakes Special Education Co-Op, Northern Indiana Special Education Co-Op, and any number of parents and advocates have met periodically to discuss various special recreation issues and to plan activities.
In the initial year of 2004 Munster Parks hosted a pool party for 200 people, while the Lake County Parks hosted a hayride and day on the farm at Buckley Homestead for 125 people. A Holiday Dance was held at Hidden Lake in Merrillville for 200 people.
The following year, 150 people attended an Indoor Carnival in Highland and 50 people participated in a bowling party in Dyer. A field day was conducted in Crown Point for 40 people and another 75 attended the annual pool party in Munster. Clearly, the consortium has not only been busy, but successful.
CSRI is now working on an intergovernmental agreement for the agencies involved, while continuing to offer programs. "From that first meeting, it was clear that no one park department or small group of people could do this alone, but together we have been able to move forward," said Chuck Gardiner, who put out the call for the initial meeting.
Other Great Features of Oak Ridge Prairie
- Barbecue facilities
- Barrier free toilet
- Cross country ski rental (Dec.-February)
- Cross country ski trails
- Fishing (fee/stocked). No Trout season; Catfish in summer
- Fishing pier
- Hayrides (tractor drawn)
- Hiking trails
- Open play fields
- Parking fee (when gatekeeper on duty)
- Picnic shelters
- Picnic tables
- Recreational equipment rentals
- Sledding hill
- Toilets (pit)
- Trail head for Oak Savannah Trail
- Volleyball standards