LOOKING BACK IN TIME - FAIRLAND RECREATION CLUB
As part of the "Skier Recognition Series", Dave Jarrett had an opportunity to sit down with Diane Herr Poff, the daughter of Jerry and Dick Herr, owner/operators of the Fairland Recreation Club near Fairland, Indiana. In this article, we're not focusing on a particular skier, but reviewing a significant contributor to Indiana's water ski community and, it's history.
In approximately 1960, Dick Herr and Lowell Haverstick partnered up to purchase the "borrow pit" that eventually became the Fairland Recreation Club. The lake had been created by the state highway department during construction of I-74 and extra dirt was needed for the overpass over the new Interstate. Lowell had the crane and did the initial digging/creation of the beach area and boat launch area. In the beginning, the amenities included the concession stand building, beach, and an ice cream truck. Not long after, Dick bought out his partner and began expanding the property over the years. Dick was a workaholic, according to daughter, Diane. He delivered a postal route early in the mornings, then headed for the lake to work the rest of the day. Dick took great pride in the property and was always grading the beach, painting and doing the maintenance associated with owning a business property. He also got his Family involved....wife Jerry did the bookwork while daughters Diane and Dawn were lifeguards, both also helping Dad with a variety of other jobs.
Over the years, the property was expanded to include a campgrounds on the Eastern section. Improvements came with miniature golf, batting cages, curved shade awnings from an old Frisch's restaurant, diving platforms, party building, boat carports, etc. As the amenities were expanded, so were the events; Triathlons, jet ski races, winter polar bear swims, and even winter "turkey shoots!"
Sadly, the popularity of the beach and the "swimming hole" diminished, probably due to the availability of inexpensive backyard above ground pools. Then, in 2002, construction of the Indiana Grand Casino began on the opposite quadrant of the I-74 interchange. During the construction of the casino, the water table was drained down for the construction of two lakes on the casino property. This resulted in the draining of Fairland Lake. It became a mud field and basically put the Fairland Recreation Club out of business. Lawsuits were filed and a jury trial resulted in a very insignificant settlement. A couple of years later an auction was held, many items were sold off and the property was eventually sold to an investor.
Luckily, the Fairland Ski Club got it's start and continued to operate through all of these years, with the exception of that 2002 season.
In the early 1960's, the Indianapolis Water Ski Club was skiing and holding tournaments at the Maywood Lake site on the Southwest side of Indianapolis. In the early 1970's, Rusty Carter Sr. and several other members leased the Fairland site and moved the Indianapolis Water Ski Club to Fairland. Some of these members names included John and Charlene Schofield with daughter Marla, Steve and Lynette Helton, Jerry Hickman, Buster Reed, Dan Custer, and Randy Sharkey. Much later came a different time and a new name.....Fairland Ski Club. This new Club operated for several decades at the Fairland site. Back in the day, different ski clubs competed with each other to hold the annual State Championships. It was financially very rewarding and the events sometimes spilled over into 3 day events. Fairland was a great place to host due to the amenities and beach for everyone to enjoy. The Indiana State Championships were held there in 1973, 1975, 1984, 1992 and, 1999 (50th anniversary). The site was also host to not only numerous IWSA "Spring Flings" over the years, but the Monday Night Ski League began there as well, with Mark Qualkinbush and MD Boats as sponsor. Some Monday nights entertained as many as 17 skiers that would show up for a set of instruction from Bill Roach and other members. The Monday Night Ski League produced several skiers still active in tournament circles today.
Unfortunately, in 2019, the owner informed the ski club that their annual lease would not be renewed.....an end of a water ski era at the property.
Dick and Jerry are no longer with us but many fond memories of the Fairland Recreation Club will linger forever.
Thanks to Diane Herr Poff and Mike Baker for photos.
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