The Mishawaka Res Presents a Unique Opportunity for Local Immersion in Nature
Writer & Photographer / Lois Tomaszewski
It is a process to find the Mishawaka Res, or the Res, as it is also known. Getting there takes you through a subdivision off of Woodhouse Drive, on a road with turns and curves that runs parallel to a railroad track. The destination, however, is a treasure to be found.
The Res has been a part of Mishawaka for a century. It was founded in 1920 as a Boy Scout camp and continued in that function until 1975. A nonprofit organization, The Preservation of the Res, Inc., formed and took over ownership and management of the 20-acre park. It was then that the use changed. It is open to the community, with the goal of fostering an appreciation for this wooded oasis in the middle of the city.
Kiera Johns, the executive director and park ranger, is marking one year on the job this month, but the Mishawaka native already had familial ties to the park. Her family has often used the Lodge and other facilities for family get-togethers and celebrations.
As the only full-time employee, Johns has a long list of job responsibilities. It takes her six hours to mow the grass. She also makes repairs, answers the phones, takes reservations and cleans. She is also making connections with other organizations to bring educational and interesting programming to the park.
Much of the history of The Res has come from community connections, Johns says. The Tri Kappa Nature Center is one example. Built by the local chapter of this statewide women’s philanthropic organization, members of the sorority returned to paint the floors and do other chores in the building.
The Lions Club and the Kiwanis Club contributed to The Res by building cabins. The Lions Club Cabin, located below the original lodge, sleeps 24 people in bunk beds, and the Kiwanis Cabin sleeps 12.
There are also two Adirondack structures, the Barbara Emmans Adirondack Shelter and Jeremiah’s Cabin. These are designed for more primitive camping. The Emmans shelter can accommodate 12 sleeping bags and Jeremiah’s Cabin can accommodate 20.
These facilities are available to rent, in addition to tent sites in the Meadow and woods. Reservations to rent are required and some restrictions apply, Johns says. The Jernegan Lodge was built in 1949. This building is the largest on the property and accommodates up to 70 people. With a full kitchen, it is a popular place for reunions, bridal showers, baby showers, family gatherings and other types of events.
This past year, Johns says she has focused on projects like the removal of invasive species. A team of Americorps volunteers this summer pulled 33,000 invasive plants from the grounds. There is an educational component in this project, she says.
“Just because a plant is green and lush doesn’t mean it’s good for the environment,” Johns says.
There are still many more plants that need to be removed. That will be on the list of tasks to be done when another Americorps team returns next summer.
The Res team uses the slogan, “Where recreation and education meet.” Johns is committed to making sure that this park continues to serve the community. There are daily visitors who come to the park to hike the two miles of trails. There are many examples of Eagle Scout projects on the grounds, including a bridge crossing a creek that is a tributary to the St. Joseph river, a storybook walk, or the recently installed raised planters at the park entrance.
“I invite the public to come and see how our community partners have made a place like this,” she says.
Although there is still a long list of projects Johns wants to accomplish in the next year, more than anything else, she wants to encourage the community to visit and take the opportunity to walk in the woods, learn about nature from local experts, or celebrate those special moments with family and friends in the Jernegan Lodge.
“This is the only wooded area open to the public,” she says. “Mishawaka has fantastic parks, but it’s not like being in the woods.”
The Mishawaka Res is located at 13950 Scout Lane in Mishawaka. It is open every day from dawn to dusk. For more information, call 574-259-1850 or visit mishawakares.org. Also find out about upcoming events on their Facebook page.