Partnering to Protect the White River: Conner Prairie and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust

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Pictured here: David Hillman, Senior Program Officer at Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, at Treetop Outpost.

For 22 years, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust has provided more than $1.2 million in support of Conner Prairie’s mission. Today, we partner with the Trust on initiatives within Conner Prairie and the broader community, focused on protecting and educating about the importance of nature and waterways in central Indiana.

The Trust has supported our best-loved museum experience areas and is deeply engaged in nature-related programming. Recent gifts include support in 2015 for the creation of Treetop Outpost, now a favorite destination for young guests to explore and play outdoors. In 2020, the Trust invested in the Prairie Pathway’s Campaign, a multi-faceted campaign that includes the Trails at Conner Prairie and Habitat. Developed by the Smithsonian Gardens, Habitat debuted in 2022 and is made available by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The experience highlights the unique areas that animals call home and what we can do to protect them.

This spring, thanks to the support of campaign donors, including the Trust, the Trails at Conner Prairie, created alongside the oxbow of the White River, opened to guests on Mach 26.  

“Conner Prairie is an important cultural destination and community amenity,” said Kent Agness, trustee at the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. “When conversations began about connecting Conner Prairie with surrounding trail systems, the Trust was excited to be involved in a project that would give residents more access to open spaces and the White River. We are confident the trails will enhance the quality of life for residents, provide more areas for outdoor recreation, and improve the river’s health through habitat restoration and protection.

Conner Prairie is grateful for the Trust’s partnership, not only as a financial supporter, but as a convener and bridge-builder for organizations interested in protecting Indiana’s waterways—the White River in particular.

Through the Partners for the White River, the Trust convenes several Indiana nonprofits, including Conner Prairie, who care about the health of this waterway running through central Indiana. David Hillman, Senior Program Officer shares that through this initiative, “The foundation is supporting grantees as they make the waterway cleaner and more accessible, help the community understand the watershed’s importance and value, and advocate for improvements to and along the White River.”

Both Conner Prairie and the Trust also participate in implementing the White River Vision Plan, a community-driven plan in Hamilton and Marion Counties designed to enhance the White River as a vital natural resource and community connector. Across 58 miles of waterways, the White River Vision Plan aims to provide a cleaner river that will connect people through a system of parks, diverse communities and cultural attractions.

Conner Prairie’s partnership with the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust spans multiple decades and initiatives, supporting the central Indiana community in so many ways. It exemplifies the power of community collaboration and that we are strongest when we work together.

You, too, can support the protection of the White River, outdoor education experiences, and more, with a gift to the Mission Impact Fund. Donations to the Mission Impact Fund support our daily activities, exhibits, and educational experiences and help us steward our 1,046 acres of meadow, river, and forest.