ITRA's History


ITRA began over a dispute about trails in Brown County State Park. Up until the mid 1970’s the horse camp at Brown County had no designated camp sites. As Arlene Smoot described it in her history articles for Trail Mix, “Everyone just pulled into the woods and parked best they could. There were vehicles everywhere. If you wanted electricity you had to have long extension cords. The cords had to run from the trailers across the road to the outlets.” But as Smoot remembered, campers enjoyed camping there because “it was not so regulated and everyone talked and visited together.”

In the mid 1970's the park had made a new horse camp--the one in use today. The new camp lacked shade trees, but it was much bigger than the old camp and did have designated camping sites with close-by electrical outlets, nearby water, and hitching rails for each site. But it came with two major drawbacks. Its new location in the park meant that people pulling horse trailers had to drive the narrow, windy, hilly State Road 135 South. But the second drawback was more severe: the DNR ruled that all single-file trails in the park were off limits to horses except for two. The DNR’s reason was that they could not keep the single-file trails properly maintained because they required hand work. The two trails that were left open for riders, A and B, could be maintained with bulldozers. Smoot recalls, “Now we had plenty of room for lots of campers but no trails to speak of.” Needless to say, this ruling generated much anger among trail riders.

Forrest Skinner lived on St. Rd. 135 and had ridden all those single-file trails created by deer for many years. He was very upset by the new rules and organized an open meeting on a Saturday night on the Rally Ground, now part of the park’s primitive camp ground. As Arlene Smoot recalls, “There were many very angry people at this meeting. It was, as I remember, quite a long meeting with much shouting and many, many complaints. Believe it or not, this was the beginning of Indiana Trail Riders Association.” A board was formed and met with the DNR over several meetings regarding the trails. Eventually an agreement was reached to make half the single-file trails available to riders on the condition that the newly formed ITRA would maintain those trails. That was the beginning of ITRA’s mission of maintaining horse trails in Indiana. Over the years more trails came under ITRA’s maintenance.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ITRA became formalized as an organization when Indiana Secretary of State Edwin J. Simcox issued the Certificate of Incorporation for Indiana Trail Riders Association, Inc. on June 1, 1982. The first board of directors consisted of five members: Jan Vinson, Bill Rumbaugh, Douglas McCormick, Leslie Simmons, and Forrest H. Skinner. The post office address of the principal office of the new corporation was P.O. Box 720 Nashville, IN 47448, which was Jan Vinson's address. She was considered the resident agent of the corporation. Meetings were held at night in Nashville, Indiana.

Brown County was not the only challenge ITRA faced and dealt with sucessfully in its early days. The Indiana DNR wanted to eliminate horse trails at the Potato Creek campground and the majority of Salamonie State Forest. With Ron McCoy at the lead as Board Chair, Jody Weldy as the President, and Yvette Rollins as Vice President, ITRA was able to prevent those policies from being put in place.

After a few years, Beverly Jones was elected president of ITRA and made significant operational changes. Bev established Farmland, her hometown, as ITRA’s official home base. She also changed the board meetings to a weekend time so that more people could participate. The board meetings were held at various restaurants over the state rather than in one location, which helped give the organization more of a statewide presence. The organization started holding annual meetings at a large shelter house in Brown County State Park. Those meeting were so well attended that ITRA began checking membership cards to ensure that attendees were actually members.

Beverly Jones was able to organize many new volunteers. She was diligent about building a good rapport with the DNR. The board met with the DNR several times a year to discuss ITRA's and their wants and needs. She and her friend Pat Moore made many trips to other states to learn how these states operated their horse trails on public lands.

VIP Rides

Beverly knew how to organize events that made people feel welcome and needed while advancing the interests of ITRA. One event that brought together Beverly’s skills was ITRA’s annual VIP ride. ITRA invited every legislator in the state and DNR adminstrators to Brown County Horsemen’s Camp for a weekend. They were welcome to stay overnight, but could also just came for the day on Saturday, as most did. It was not uncommon for as many as 90 people to attend. Their day started with a lunch featuring pork chops cooked over an open grill and lots of good, homemade sides and desserts. After lunch safe horses were available for those who wanted to ride the park with ITRA members. Usually wagons, buggies, or once a stage coach, were available as well. VIP rides continued for many years. Over time attendance began to drop off and the complexity of putting the ride together led ITRA to suspend the ride. The VIP ride did, however, give ITRA opportunities to talk and interact with legislators and DNR staff who had an influence in matters that were on the parties' agendas.

Revising the By-Laws

As years passed the make up of the Board evolved to include a new generation of members who has not been among the original membership. These newer members saw that the scopeof the organization's work had expanded and that potential growth was strong. In November of 1999 a set of changes to the by-laws was presented to the membership in Trail Mix. A number of changes were proposed, but one outstanding change was to the manner in which elections were held. Up until that time voting for officers and board members occured at the annual meeting then being held at Midwest Trail Ride. However, space there was limited there and not all members could attend. So a change was made to allow members to vote by mail to ensure that all members had the opportunity to vote. The venue of the annual meeting was moved from Midwest Trail Rides to a more centralized location to make attendance more convenient for ITRA's statewide membership. (The venue ultimately decided upon was the Noblesville county fairgrounds.) The timing of the annual meeting was also moved from November to the spring. Those changes, and others, were approved at the annual meeting of 2000.

Left to right: Terry Coleman, DNR; Jeff French, Rising Sun Foundation; Greg Hersberger, Ron McCoy, Larry Sidell--ITRA; Paul Sipple, Park Manager; Congressman Randy Frye, Brad Walker, Assistant Park Manager

The Versailles Project

In the Spring of 2011, Ron McCoy and Larry Sidell met with Versailles State Park Property Manager Paul Sipples regarding the disposition of the old concessionaire's barns and trails that were then unused. Ron and Larry proposed that those idled facilities become the basis for an overnight campground for trail riders, which would bring new patrons to the park. ITRA would provide the bulk of the labor on a volunteer basis. Their proposal was accepted by the DNR, and Versailles became the largest project undertaken by ITRA.

In September grant money was being generated from local communities; the Rising Sun Regional Foundation provided $45,000 and the City of Lawrenceburg awarded ITRA $17,200 at the same time. Later, the DNR covered the costs of three precast vault toilets at around $37,000 each.

October 8, 2011 was the project's first work day. Over 60 volunteers from the local equestrian community appeared to help clear the site. ITRA was overwhelmed with inspections, required clearances, compliance to rules and permits, delaying one effort after another. But Spring 2012 brought several more work days and progress was steadily made. ITRA had projected Versailles would be a two-year project, but ultimately it took five years to complete.

On October 8, 2016, five years to the day after construction had started, the campground was officially dedicated. It included nine campsites, water, electric, firepits, tables, hitchrails and cement manure bins. Today Versailles State Park is a premiere trailriding location with 26 miles of trails. ITRA continues to provide extensive trail work at the park.

A Ride with the Governor

In May 2013 then Governor (later Vice President) Mike Pence joined ITRA for a ride. Jody Weldy recalled how it came about: "Just about a year ago, I met then Congressman Mike Pence at Republican Headquarters in Goshen, Indiana. I introduced myself and said I was with the Indiana Trail Riders Association and that after he was elected Governor that we should have a 'Trail Ride with the Governor' to give trail riders in the state of Indiana a chance to meet and ride with him. He said it was a great idea and to plan on it if he was elected." After Pence was elected governor, Weldy called his office and was able to schedule the ride for May 18. Weldy recalls his arrival on that day: "The ride was set for 10 until noon and we had all the horses saddled up and ready to go when the Governor arrived. The black suburban arrived with the “detail” and it was followed by the now famous red Silverado, which is the Governor’s personal pick-up. I made introductions and the Governor greeted several trail riders who had ridden up just to say hi and several got to shake his hand and get their picture taken." Several members of Pence's staff and his son accompanied the governor. The two-hour ride, though interrupted by some bouts of hand shaking with riders in the park, came off without a hitch.

Materials in this history are adapted from Trail Mix articles by Arlene Smoot and Jody Weldy, and from original materials by Ron McCoy.

More to come . . .