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Growing up, I played in plenty of softball tournaments at Portage’s Imagination Glen Park. The ball fields there were always some of my favorite in the area, in large part because they are so well maintained. However, unlike many of the sporting complexes that my teams frequented, Imagination Glen doubles as a natural area, offering opportunities for nature lovers as well as sports enthusiasts.

Imagination Glen’s sporting facilities are likely the park’s biggest draw, attracting more than 1,000 people on busy days. These include softball and soccer fields, a BMX bicycle race track and sand volleyball courts. With picnic shelters, concession stands and restrooms, athletes enjoy plenty of amenities as well. Youth soccer and adult softball leagues regularly take place here during the summer months.

Imagination Glen also caters to mountain bikers by providing them with the 10-mile, professional-level Outback Trail. The trail is managed by the Outback Trail Commission and offers two loops, one for beginners and one for more advanced riders.

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While its sporting facilities are certainly amazing, Imagination Glen’s natural features are not to be ignored. Woodlands cover much of this 256-acre park, but you can also find several rare fens, accommodating a variety of uncommon plant species. Salt Creek meanders through the center of the park and not only provides a beautiful view, but a great opportunity for salmon fishing as well.

These natural features make Imagination Glen one of the best area parks for hiking. In fact, those who take a hike down to Salt Creek can’t imagine they’re still in a city, said Jenny Orsburn, Portage Parks superintendent. Another great hiking opportunity is provided by the Iron Horse Trail, which borders the property’s southern boundary and connects Imagination Glen with Portage’s Woodland Park.

For general information about the park, facility rentals, and a schedule of activities, visit www.inportageparks.com. The park is also on Indiana Dunes Tourism’s Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail (www.beyondthebeachdiscoverytrail.com) because it’s among the area’s top natural, cultural and historical assets.

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This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Kristina Kuzma is an intern at Indiana Dunes Tourism.

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