Tickets still available for ‘Back Forty Banquet’ for Potawatomi Wildlife Park

There is still time to get tickets to the Potawatomi Wildlife Park (PWP) annual fundraiser the ‘Back Forty Banquet’ on Saturday, March 2. The deadline to purchase tickets is Sat., Feb. 23. PWP is located at 16998 SR 331, Tippecanoe.
By: 
Jamie Fleury
Staff Writer

Potawatomi Wildlife Park (PWP) Executive Director Michael Stephan has dedicated his life’s work to the mission, vision and upkeep of the nature preserve.

Stephan has been serving PWP for over 27 years.

“The park’s unique natural and historical features and that fact that it is not a government funded property, there is nothing like it!”

Stephan enthusiastically welcomes the community to support the park by purchasing tickets or sponsoring tables for the ‘Back Forty Banquet’ taking place Sat., March 2.

The event is being held at the ‘Back Forty’ Banquet Hall located at 1010 9 B Road in Bourbon. Doors will open at 5 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased for $35 each from a PWP board member or online at pwp2019.brownpapertickets.com.

Stephan shared that God led him to PWP back in 1991.

“In 1991, God told me to go get a newspaper. I opened it up and immediately pointed to an ad for the park. I only applied for one job out of college. I’ve been here ever since. If you can’t see why Potawatomi Wildlife Park is special, you’re not listening.”

Stephan emphasized the importance of that direction.

“The ad was in the Sunday edition of the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette. I purchased it at a Sunoco Gas Station in Andrews, Indiana on US 24. My wife was with me and I told her I was to get a paper as I slammed on the breaks. You tend to remember things like that. I haven’t had an experience like that since. Either I am deaf or my next task has not been issued.”

Stephan explained that he purposely used ‘see’ and ‘listen’ within his statement

"If you can’t see why Potawatomi Wildlife Park is special, you’re not listening." Stephan detailed, “I hear comments from park patrons while ‘listening’ while in the park.”

Stephan shared that the park draws visitors from the region.

“Half of our attendance comes from outside Marshall County; including other states and countries. That’s good for Marshall County.”

Stephan would like to see the park included in the county’s long term vision.

“Considering the park’s unique natural and historical features, and the value that is placed on the park by those even outside of Marshall County, the Potawatomi Park, Inc. park system and Potawatomi Wildlife Park should play a major part of the county’s long term vision.”

Stephan illustrated, “A participant in our 5K last October, who was visiting from Los Angeles, ran the course and then ran it three more times after the race was over. She couldn’t believe such a park existed and commented continuously on the lack of smog and the beautiful trails.”

Stephan emphasized, “I can see what the park means to the future of Marshall County.”

Over 6,000 guests signed the registry at the park for 2018.

That number does not include the visitors who come to the park but don’t sign the registry, or those who visit the park daily.

Estimated numbers for actual attendance calculated using the Eppley Formula suggest over 15,000 visitors in 2018.

To collect more accurate data, Stephan shared that car counters were obtained.

“Thanks to a grant from Marshall County Tourism, Marshall County REMC Round UP, and funds from the park’s previous raffles, we will start 2019 with car counters in place.”

According to zip codes, guests come from Marshall County, Kosciusko County, Fulton County, St. Joe County, and Elkhart County.

Guest registrants include visitors from other counties, other states and other countries.

PWP Board Member Mark Espich shared, “My favorite thing about the park is the history. PWP is one of the most historical locations in Marshall County. It is open to explore and hike where Native Americans once inhabited. Our tag line sums it up perfectly, ‘Hike into History’. From 8,000 year old Indian encampments (dating back to 6,000 B.C.) to the more recent Benack Village, and the Goshen-Logansport Trail of the 1800’s.”

According to park literature, PWP preserves pre-historical features dating back to 12,000 to 8,000 B.C.

PWP offers birdwatching, canoe/kayak rental, dog walking, geocaching, wildlife observation, star gazing, group visits, winter activities, educational programs, youth group camping (individual camping is not allowed), and youth group fishing (individual fishing is not allowed).

Public facilities include the interpretive center, canoe landing, picnic area, and restrooms.

Rental facilities are available for small group fire-ring, small group gazebo, and large group pavilion events.

A full list of facilities and possibilities are available online at www.getintonature.com.

PWP upholds the vision, “Potawatomi Wildlife Park shall be a place where the natural, historical, and cultural features of the area are conserved, protected and restored for use and enjoyment by present and future generations.”

PWP is located at 16998 SR 331, Tippecanoe.