Versailles State Park office, DNR headquarters and statue of CCC worker dedicated

Wanda English Burnett


The dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Versailles State Park office that also houses the Indiana Conservation Officer District 9 headquarters was held Friday, May 21 with over 150 people in attendance. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) statue was also dedicated as part of the ceremony.
Dan Bortner, Division of State Parks and Reservoirs director, welcomed those attending the event on Friday by saying, “Today we honor you on behalf of a grateful State.”

He then introduced Norris Krall of the Ripley County Historical Society, who gave a brief history of the CCC and their importance to history. He noted that the labor of the young men of the generation of the Great Depression Era built barracks, a mess hall, administration and recreation building at what is now the Versailles State Park, the second largest in the State of Indiana. Also stone shelters and walls were erected with local stone that still stands today.

Krall said because of the vision of the late Ruth Ann Swinney, who began the work on the CCC statue at Versailles before her death, it stands today at the entrance of the park, a permanent reminder of what hard work and dedication can accomplish. The motto inscribed on a plaque on the statue says, “We Can Take It”. He told those gathered, “We should never forget the many young men who labored here.”

Some of the CCC workers were in attendance at the dedication ceremony and attested to the fact they did “take it”. “It shaped my life for what was to come,” noted Arlis Sizemore, 87 of Logansport, who attended the ceremony.

Sizemore told The Versailles Republican after working as a CCC boy, he was enlisted in the military in 1943 where he would eventually fight on the front lines in World War II. He received numerous medals including the prestigious Legion of Honor medal. He was among six who were named Knights of the Legion of Honor at the Indiana War Memorial in 2007. This outstanding distinction is the highest honor bestowed for remarkable deeds for France.

Paul Hayes, another CCC veteran, spoke, saying, “The veterans appreciate the recognition even after these long years.” He said he learned to work hard, learned a trade, and would “sign up right now” if the CCC was back in operation today.

Robert E. Carter, Jr. Department of Natural Resources director, addressed the crowd saying it made sense logistically to put the office at the entrance of the park. He also noted that he was sure his good friend Sheriff Tom Grills (who attended the ceremony) appreciated having another law enforcement agency in the area, such as the Indiana Conservation Officers headquarters.

The ICO Honor Guard participated in the ceremony with the clear notes of the National Anthem sung by ICO Andy Cline.

The unveiling of the CCC statue was an important part of the day as many locals gathered to see the fruit of the labor of many, but in particular the late Ruth Ann Swinney, who spearheaded the project. The statue was made possible through grants provided by the Rising Sun Regional Foundation and The Ripley County Community Foundation. The Ripley County Historical Society played a major role in helping with the project that now boasts a 6-foot statue that weighs 460 pounds. Swinney’s daughter, Lisa Ebinger, carried on with the project after her mother’s death.

As the black veil was lifted from the CCC statue, veterans of that era clapped and then stood silently reflecting on what the statue is a symbol of and what the CCC boys have meant to our great nation.

Following the unveiling of the statue, refreshments were provided by the Versailles Super Market and served in the new park office with the ICO offices open to the public. CCC memorabilia was provided including the famous ax of which Sizemore told The Versailles Republican, “We actually used them!”

A ribbon cutting ceremony was then held at the entrance to the new park office and ICO headquarters with great-grandchildren of the late Ruth Ann Swinney participating, as well as many others, including dignitaries on the state and local levels.

The office was built at the entrance of the park for better visibility and convenience for those coming to the facility. The previous office, which was built in 1935 and served as cook’s quarters for the CCC camp, was small and tucked away within the park. Also it was not ADA accessible.

The 3,000 square-foot building houses not only the park office, but serves a dual purpose providing a central location for the District 9 conservation officers. Their previous office was small and in an old house at Brookville.

The limestone on the new building matches stonework on buildings already in the park. It was quarried in Napoleon, according to information from the Department of Natural Resources.

Michell Timperman of Ritz, New Albany, was the designer for the new facility. The consulting engineer was Galbreath & Associates, Inc., Floyd Knobs, with the consulting civil engineer being Howard J. Barth & Associates Inc. of Greensburg. The contractor was Poole Group, Inc. from Milan. The cost of the building, which was secured a few years back, was $859,893.

You are welcome to visit the Versailles State Park and see the new facilities first hand. The park has nearly 6,000 acres to offer, which never seems crowded, even with the average 350,000 people who annually make their way to the park.