National Trail Day observed at The Ridge Nature Area
By BONNIE HESTER
Intern for The Citizen
On June 7 the Southern Conservation Trust and Southside Cycling Club hosted National Trail Day — a collection of outdoor events held annually to celebrate America’s trail systems — for a second time at The Ridge Nature Area.
The Ridge is currently under development as the fifth public nature area to be owned or managed by the Southern Conservation Trust in Fayette County.
Located at the south end of Burch Road in Fayetteville, it consists of 303 acres of hardwood forest and wetland habitat located on a ridge line between Whitewater Creek and Ginger Cake Creek.
At this year’s event, volunteers worked to clear and expand a 1-mile pedestrian path called Ridge Loop that forms part of the park’s 5.4-mile system of hiking, mountain biking and running trails.
According to SCT member Keith Larson, a total of over 200 volunteers (from scout groups, schools, Southside Cycling Club and the community) have pitched in to bring the trust’s master plan for the area to fruition.
Already, scout groups have removed over three tons of farm debris from the premises and installed two trail bridges. Fayette County citizens are already starting to enjoy the benefits of these volunteers’ efforts, as Clayton State students have been able to study a rare population of Eastern box turtles living undisturbed in the park, Larson commented.
Work will continue on the park this summer, with the hope of completing construction of the planned 60-car parking lot by the end of the summer so that the area can then be opened fully to the public, Larson said.
A time-control gate at the entrance will allow public access to the park between the hours of dawn and dusk, Larson continued.
Once complete, the park will include a nature education center, picnic areas and pavilions, numerous bird watching areas, a youth campground and a community garden, Larson said.
He added that 5k and 3k trail paths will be outlined for runners’ convenience, and that canoe and kayaking enthusiasts will be able to put in at a boat launch on Whitewater Creek in order to make the 7.5-mile trip down to Starr’s Mill. In addition, the area will be available for sports such as orienteering, letter-boxing, and geocaching.