Ouabache fire tower to reopen thanks to fundraising campaign

BLUFFTON, Ind. (WANE) Guests to Ouabache State Park will be able to climb the iconic 100-foot fire tower again, thanks to the park’s friends.

The Friends of Ouabache State Park group raised $75,000 in less than nine months to rehabilitate the tower, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said in a news release Wednesday. Ouabache Property Manager Dustin Clark said site work including accessibility improvements has already begun, the fire tower is expected to be restored by summer and fall and open to guests in spring 2018.

“Reopening this historic icon to the public will stand as a highlight to Ouabache State Park’s timeline,” Clark said.

The Ouabache State Park fire tower is shown.

The 100-foot-tall fire tower in Ouabache State Park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Core. The top of the tower closed in April 2015, though, after an inspection showed the tower’s steps were rotting, metal supports were rusting, and the structure was in desperate need of new handrails and treads.

Without funding, the structure’s future was uncertain.

That’s when Friends of Ouabache State Park took over.

Through a GoFundMe campaign, the group raised the first $50,000 in small increments from individuals, families and small businesses, according to group secretary Kathy Schwartz. The last $25,000 came from a matching grant by the Wells County Community Foundation.

“We just had a great response from individuals,” Schwartz said. “We had a donation from a couple who got engaged in the top. We had people who remembered climbing it and wanted their children to be able to climb it. That’s where the money came from.”

NewsChannel 15 learned last July that climbing to the top of the tower, for best viewpoint in the park, was like a right of passage. It will soon be available again.

“I don’t think when we first started anybody thought we would accomplish this as quickly as we did,” Schwartz said.