Noble County is abundant with outdoor recreation opportunities, fueled by a system of outstanding parks.
Let’s take a tour, starting in Albion, the county seat…
Albion is an extraordinary small town, full of charm and hard-working people who love where they live! That’s why residents take great pride as home to some of the county’s nicest town parks.
This small town park sits in a valley across from Central Noble Schools along State Road 8 (East Main Street) in Albion. At less than 1/2 acre, it is the perfect place for a small, private family gathering. The park offers a covered picnic pavilion and bathrooms. The lawn is vast and flat, perfect for lawn games. Off-street parking is available nearby.
Valleyview is home to a baseball diamond, concession stand, accessible restrooms, playground, and small pavilion. There is no rental fee to use Valleyview’s pavilion. This venue is used and sponsored by a local soccer league, little league baseball, co-ed softball league, and more.
Hidden Diamonds Park
Aptly named, this hidden gem is a real treasure in Albion. Hidden Diamonds features nearly 50 acres of beautiful rolling hills with a wide variety of recreational opportunities.
Enjoy camping at Hidden Diamonds, either “primitive” or with full hook-ups. Pavilion #1, overlooking lighted ball diamonds and a concession stand, is available for private rentals. The Truelove Pavilion provides shelter for the public to enjoy any time, dawn to dusk. Hidden Diamonds also features a splash pad, pickleball and basketball courts, soccer fields and concession stand, accessible restrooms, a sand volleyball pit, playground, 18-hole disc golf course, and over a mile of walking trails that pass through beautiful, wooded areas. Hidden Diamonds is located just off Weber Road that intersects with State Road 9 just south of the railroad tracks.
Next, we’re heading south of Albion to Chain O’ Lakes State Park
…about four miles to county’s most visited park. It welcomed over 336,000 people in 2019 and when the stats come out for 2020, officials expect a new record for attendance as tens of thousands of guests discovered the great outdoors offered an ideal getaway during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chain O’ Lakes State Park
Established in 1960, Chain O’ Lakes State Park covers 2,718 acres and, as the name suggests, features eight connecting lakes plus three others within its boundaries. The lakes are “kettle lakes”, formed by receding sheets of ice during the Ice Age. Steeply rolling hills and bogs are also prevalent here. One of the Hoosier state’s top-performers, Chain O’ Lakes is a favorite for kayakers and boaters as well as hikers.
The park features 23 miles of forested trails, which draws runners from around the world to the annual Huff 50K Trail Run, the twelfth largest ultramarathon in North America. The race celebrates a 25th anniversary in 2021 and will take place at Chain O’ Lakes on Saturday, December 18, marking the eighth year in a row for hosting near Albion.
The park’s other highlights include overnight cabins, over 400 camp sites in a range of areas from private youth, canoe and rally camps to a traditional campground with both electric and non-electric sites; camp store; dumping station; fish cleaning facilities; multiple boat launches; nature center; interpretive programs; multiple pavilion-style shelters; cross-country ski areas; fishing piers; kayak, canoe, paddleboat and boat rentals; beach; and historic one-room Stanley Schoolhouse.
Now we head east, to Avilla, Noble County’s fastest-growing community.
Avilla is taking steps to make the county’s first dog park a reality! Organizers hope to open install a new park for pups near the Noble County Public Library East Branch. The project kicked off in August 2020. No far from the proposed site, just northeast of the and adjacent to the library parking lot sites Ley Street Park.
Ley Street Park
Ley Street Park is simply a place to walk and enjoy nature. It offers mulched trails and a flower meadow. Ample parking is available at the library with easy access.
Avilla’s newest park is Heritage Park, located along E. Albion Street just west of the historic St. James Restaurant. This pocket park was dedicated in December 2018. The community removed an eyesore and replaced it with a quiet place for all ages to enjoy. Town folk have been known to gather here at Christmastime for a tree lighting, caroling, refreshments, and fellowship.
Eley Memorial Park
West of the downtown stoplight in Avilla, also along W. Albion Street, is Eley Memorial Park, the town’s main park. It offers a variety of recreational amenities including tennis courts, playgrounds, picnic shelters, horseshoe pits, basketball courts, and a gazebo. Three ball diamonds are supported by a concession stand with restrooms and batting cages.
Traveling north from Avilla, we begin to explore the parks in Kendallville…
Bixler Lake Park
Kendallville residents treasure Bixler Lake and all the surrounding amenities. The 117-acre lake provides opportunities for recreation and education. Located on the city’s east side, the park features over 530 acres (including the lake) to explore via a pedestrian walkway, nature trail, or on the water. Two beaches provide ample opportunities for swimming. A boat launch and pier offer shore or on-the-water fishing. Six open-air pavilions, available by reservation for private use, and multiple playgrounds, are also in the park. Nature lovers will enjoy observation platforms that enable excellent wildlife viewing of waterfowl and mammals, ranging from deer to fox. Signs provide natural interpretation along the trails and near trailheads.
Rounding out Bixler Lake Park’s offerings are a lighted softball field, campground, newly updated tennis courts, two 9-hole disc golf courses, plus pickleball and basketball courts.
Kendallville Outdoor Recreation Complex
Long-term planning and dedicated efforts have brought the city’s Outdoor Recreation Complex from a meager beginning in August 2006 to the realization of a truly world-class facility for outdoor sports and special events that is unparalleled in most counties of similar size. The $2.3 million project, funded by both private and public funds, features four irrigated and lighted ball diamonds (to professional standards), three soccer fields, basketball, and shuffleboard courts. Concessions and restroom facilities are able to provide full services that welcome youth and adult softball, youth baseball, and soccer.
The complex’s main entrance is located at 524 S. Allen Chapel Road (N. CR 1000 E.) adjacent to the east side of Bixler Lake Park, connected by a walking trail. The facility hosts weekend tournaments and events throughout the year.
On Kendallville’s west side, at the intersection of Drake Road and S. Morton St., is Sunset Park. This 32-acre open space sits in a residential neighborhood with Dieble Creek running through its center. Three youth baseball diamonds and a soccer field, as well as the county’s largest playground, are found here. In summer, a beautiful neighborhood garden blooms and the pavilion, plus a gazebo, provide a welcoming gathering place for all ages.
Heading west, then north from Kendallville we land in Rome City.
Rome City is home of Sylvan Lake, the county’s largest residential lake. In addition to the lake that offers public access, the town boasts several small community parks.
Kelly Park is located at 689 Kelly Street Extended. This was the location of a scaled down replica of the Vietnam Memorial, called The Moving Wall, in 2019, and marks the sight where a variety of events take place during Chautauqua Days, a community celebration of the town’s history that takes place every August.
At the base of the region’s only dam lies Sycamore Park. This small park provides access for fishing and, because of the dam nearby, a large hill for winter sledding. Nature enthusiasts may enjoy observing a variety of waterfowl and other native animals and plants while strolling around the park. Perhaps equally intriguing is the Northport Feeder Dam constructed in 1837-38. Originally constructed as part of a canal that ran from Fort Wayne to Michigan City, the dam was intended to feed water into a stretch of canal during dry weather, which required a reservoir to be established. The route for the planned canal was intended to traverse several townships to the west to link up to the Elkhart River about three miles east of Ligonier. A sawmill once stood on the river near the proposed location of the dam, and it produced large quantities of lumber for the dam and culverts over the canal. Though the canal never became a reality, the dam did become an invaluable source of waterpower and helped attract many businesses to the region, including various mills that produced large quantities of flannels, yarns, cashmeres, jeans, broadcloths and more.
Sitting at the south end of Kerr Island at Sylvan Lake, along Sylvan Avenue, is Lakeside Park. This small park features a basketball court, playground, and lakefront access with benches to enjoy the view.
Located at 142 Lions Drive, Gaff Park is an open green space, with covered pavilion.
Grant Park, at 351 Grant Street, features a single ball diamond with stands for fans and a nine-station “adventure walk” made possible by the Kendallville Public Library’s Limberlost Branch in town. The adventure walk starts at Grant Park and ends at Kelly Park.
From Rome City we drop south to US Highway 6 and head west to Wawaka.
Wawaka Community Park
Just north of US 6 on Brown Street, which runs parallel to the highway, lies the Elkhart Township Park, featuring two baseball diamonds. In June 2020, Elkhart Township added a new playground.
Leaving Wawaka, we continue west to Ligonier.
As we make our way through the Ligonier, be sure to look out the window and down the alleyways to take in this City of Murals’ more than 30 artworks!
Once in the City of Ligonier, a turn north on SR 5 soon brings us to Triangle Park, a tiny garden spot that features Ligonier’s historic clock, beautiful summer blooms, and a bronze sculpture. The park is located just north of the Ligonier Visitors Center.
Continuing north, we head up Cavin Street. A turn west on W. 4th Street brings us to Gazebo Park, sitting at the intersection with S. Main Street. As one might expect, this greenspace is home to a small gazebo and benches, the perfect place to take a break in the shade or witness special moment with family or friends.
Back to Cavin Street, then north about three blocks is Pettit Park. The beautiful outdoor pavilion serves as host to the community’s summer farmers market. Next to the paved parking is also a shuffleboard court and lovely floral landscape.
As we leave Pettit Park, we’ll take Lincolnway West to S. Martin Street, then turn south. Nearly five blocks down is Prentiss Park. This small neighborhood park features a playground and shady respite.
Jenny Thompson Memorial Garden
Leaving Prentiss Park, we will go south on S. Martin Street to W. Union Street, then head west. Just down the road, at 520 W. Union St. is the Jenny Thompson Memorial Garden, featuring stunning floral landscapes and seating areas ideal for meditation or a good book. Winding pathways through the garden, and continuing north, will soon connect us to Kenney Park, the city’s primary spot for outdoor recreation.
Located just off W. Union St., Kenney Park features a new (in 2020) 18-hole disc golf course that has quickly become a destination for the region’s disc golf enthusiasts. Other highlights here include three baseball diamonds, splash pad, basketball court, soccer field, playground, walking trail with exercise stations, and an indoor recreation center.
Enjoy the many free amenities Noble County’s public parks offer and get rejuvenated with nature!