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The Indian Creek Nature Center sits on land previously occupied by two farms that were established in 1849.Â The land changed hands several times before Milo Wolfe purchased what is known today as the Bena Farm. The farm remained in the Wolfe family until 1899, when William Christle purchased it.Â For twenty years the Christle family owned the property, then sold it to Wencil and Carrie Bena on March 1, 1920.Â Cary was William Christleâ€™s Â daughter.Â Â The farm remained in the Bena family until it was sold to the Indian Creek Nature Center in 1994.
Penningroth Dairy Farm
In the mid 1920s Charles Penningroth, a Cedar Rapids attorney, purchased other land bordering Indian Creek. For the nextÂ 25 years, under Penningroth ownership, the land was in various forms of agriculture. Construction of the Penningroth Dairy Barn was completed in 1932 in the midst of the Depression.Â The remodeled barn is currently used as the hub of many Nature Center activities.
In 1968 the City of Cedar Rapids used Federal Housing and Urban Development funds to purchased about 1000 acres of floodplain along the Cedar River.Â This land, known as the Greenbelt, stretches from southeast Cedar Rapids to Indian Creek; then extends north through the lower Indian Creek valley.Â The Penningroth farm was part of this purchase.
Creation of the
Indian Creek Nature Center
In 1970 B.B. Stamats visited a nature center in the Twin Cities and became an advocate for an environmental education center in the Cedar Rapids area.Â B.B. and Jean Oâ€™Donnell shared this vision and recruited a steering committee of about forty community members.Â The Indian Creek Nature Center was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1973 but a physical site had yet to be found. Studies found the best was the Penningroth farm, now owned by the City of Cedar Rapids.Â A lease for the barn and 120 acres of land was arrangedÂ and theÂ Indian Creek Nature Center became the first nature center in Iowa. The first public program was held on Groundhog Day in 1974. An exceptional and unexpected opportunity came in 1994 when the Bena family offered to sellÂ their farm to the Nature Center. Â The resulting transaction increased Nature Center land Â 210 acres.
BB Stamatsâ€™ and Jean Oâ€™Donnellâ€™s dream of a nature center for their community materialized into green prairies, teeming wetlands, and protected woodlands that are enjoyed byÂ thousands ofÂ visitors each year.