By Jack Spaulding
On Aug. 11, the DNR Division of Law Enforcement held graduation ceremonies at the Indiana Government Center South in Indianapolis. Twenty-five new Indiana Conservation Officers officially joined the division during the event.
Conservation Officer Andrew Harmon, the 2021 James D. Pitzer Officer of the Year, administered the oath of office to the recruits, who will fill positions in various locations around the state. The new officers represent the 39th recruit class of conservation officers, the oldest state law enforcement agency in Indiana.
The officers and assignment locations (by county in parentheses) are Thomas Adams (Marion), Bradley Barker (Brown), Jarrett Batliner (Ripley), Jacob Bolt (Starke), Draven Browning (Howard), Tyler Burton (Wayne), Connor Christman (Morgan), Kenton Crews (Parke), Austin Ely (Ripley), Nina Freund (St. Joseph), Michael Herr (St. Joseph), Gannery Htoo (Noble), Caleb Hutchison (Owen), Cameron Liden (Morgan), Dylan Mast (Noble), Matthew Mauder (Owen), Kensie Milner (Huntington), Michael Montgomery (Parke), Adam Nussel (Marion), Trevor Sager (Monroe), Michael Southerland (Union), Luke Tincher (Vigo), Tevin Tomlinson (Miami), Austin Walsh (Decatur) and Matthew Williams (Monroe).
The new officers completed six weeks of recruit training followed by a 15-week basic law enforcement academy. Upon completion of the academy, officers completed additional specialized training before doing 90 shifts of field training.
The Indiana DNR employs 214 conservation officers who, in addition to enforcing state laws, are often called upon to help during emergencies and natural disasters. They also engage in non-law enforcement activities such as outdoor instructional programs including boater, hunter, snowmobile and trapper education. DNR Law Enforcement’s river rescue, cave rescue, underwater search and recovery, and K-9 teams are specialty response units available statewide whenever needed.
Three seriously injured in dirt bike accident
Indiana Conservation Officers were investigating a dirt bike accident injuring an adult and two juveniles in Brown County. At 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 13, officers were dispatched to the area near the 8200 block of Highland Drive for an accident with serious injury.
Initial investigation revealed Cody Cooper, 30, was operating a dirt bike with a juvenile passenger in a wooded area when they collided with a second dirt bike being operated by a juvenile. The juveniles were wearing helmets at the time of the accident.
All three sustained serious bodily injuries and were transported by I.U. Health Lifeline to Riley and Methodist Hospitals in Indianapolis.
Assisting agencies include Indiana Conservation Officers, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, the Hamblen Fire Department, I.U. Health Ambulance Service and I.U. Health Lifeline.
Big 4 Trail opens
The Indiana DNR, Next Level Trails (NLT) and the Town of Colfax opened the recently completed Big 4 Trail extension in Clinton and Boone counties on Aug. 6.
The trail dedication was held as part of the community’s Old Hickory Days Festival. The 4.7-mile asphalt multi-use trail was constructed by the town with help from a $1,661,400 NLT grant. The new trail extends the existing the Big 4 northwest from Thorntown in Boone County to Colfax in Clinton County. The extension was built along and named after the old Big Four rail corridor. The project included a trailhead in Colfax and two repaired bridges.
“Next Level Trails was designed to connect communities and create regional trail systems” said Dan Bortner, director of the DNR. “The Big 4 is a perfect example of a trail that unites two counties to benefit its residents and create a regional asset that draws visitors.”
The new section is part of the regional Big 4 Trail and stretches from Zionsville to Colfax. NLT is funding three additional projects along the corridor in Lebanon, Whitestown and Zionsville. When complete, the Big 4 will span nearly 30 miles and connect five communities in two counties, with plans to later extend northwest to Tippecanoe County and Lafayette.
“The Town of Colfax is thankful for the many partners that have made the successful completion of the Thorntown-Colfax section of the Big 4 Trail possible” said Liz Stitzel, executive director for the Clinton County Area Plan Commission. “Numerous residents use the trail on a regular basis, and Colfax looks forward to the economic development and recreational opportunities the trail has the potential to bring to town in the future.”
As part of Next Level Connections initiative, NLT is the largest infusion of trails funding in state history. The $150 million program is administered by the DNR and facilitates critical trail connections within and between Hoosier communities.
Colfax was awarded funding for the Big 4 Trail extension as part of the first round of NLT, which Gov. Eric Holcomb announced in May 2019. At 4.7 miles, the Big 4 Trail is the longest trail developed through the NLT program to date and the 10th project to be completed.
More information about the NLT is at on.IN.gov/NextLevelTrails.
Readers can contact the author by writing to this publication, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Spaulding’s books, “The Best Of Spaulding Outdoors” and “The Coon Hunter And The Kid,” are available from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle download.