MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Park District accomplished numerous tasks and projects in 2018 that will benefit county residents and visitors alike, park district Director Lori Totman informed county commissioners Thursday. Those feats involved work on multi-use trails, park improvements and event coordination. She also presented the report in December to the Knox County Park District board.
“Two of the most exciting multi-use trail accomplishments of the 2018 season included clearing the last section the HOOT (Heart of Ohio Trail) from Huffman Road to the Knox/Licking County line, which can now be mountain biked or hiked, and the completion of the Mohican Valley Trail repaving project from the Bridge of Dreams to the Knox/Holmes to the Knox/Holmes County line,” Totman said. “The Mohican Valley Trail driveway to the Bridge of Dreams was completely redone and the parking lot is now handicap-accessible.”
More trail improvements were also among last year’s accomplishments, Totman said, including official Ohio to Erie Trails signs. The signs were installed on the Heart of Ohio Trail starting at the Cleveland, Akron and Columbus Depot (CA&C) on Main Street in Mount Vernon, and end at the present terminus at Huffman Road, just southeast of Centerburg. The Ohio to Erie Trail is a 330-mile long trail spanning the state from Cleveland to Cincinnati. Additionally, she said the park district purchased a powerful blower that can be used after heavy rains. It is strong enough to help clear large branches and other debris from the HOOT, the Mohican Valley Trail and the Kokosing Gap Trail. Contracted tree removal on the HOOT continues to keep the trail clear as needed.
The park district also contracted work to reset the swings and bench at the Mount Liberty play area along the Heart of Ohio Trail. Numerous Eagle Scout projects were a welcome addition to the parks, Totman said, with Eagle Scout Austin J. Griffith building and installing three exercise stations and fellow Eagle Scout Aaron Hibner securing funds to pour a concrete slab at Mount Liberty for picnic tables. Centerburg’s Venture Youth Group cleared brush and reseeded areas near the HOOT playground.
There were also numerous park improvements made in 2018, including three Eagle Scout projects at Wolf Run Regional Park on Yauger Road. Eagle Scout Joseph Hedge completed a park map, and secured funding to pay for a kiosk to post the map at the Wolf Run trailhead parking lot. Another Eagle Scout, Marshall Smith, completed a bridge project with three separate spans into one continuous bridge over a wet area of the woods. Eagle Scout Andrew McKinley installed a bridge over Wolf Run’s stream. The Rotary Club purchased a new bench for the Wolf Run trailhead. Totman also praised volunteers who prepped and monitored bluebird boxes during the nesting season, as the park district has bluebird boxes at Wolf Run as well as Honey Run Highlands and Thayer Ridge parks.
Totman also praised science projects in 2018 including the state of Ohio’s long-term butterfly monitoring at Honey Run Highlands, and the Ohio State University bee atlas project from naturalists at Wolf Run. Totman said the park district is able to tap into ODOT’s Metro-parks fund for gravel and parking lot improvements, important last year because of the record amount of rain in Ohio including the state’s central region. These improvements, such as grading and fixing river access parking lots, were made at most park, river access and bike trail parking lots including the Kokosing Gap Trailhead at Mount Vernon Avenue/Lower Gambier Road.
Totman concluded her 2018 highlights by discussing educational programs at parks open to the public, which were well attended and some featuring new workshop-style formats. The 2018 season kicked off with three “Capture Nature on Canvas” paint classes for 45 people, and two floral arranging workshops with 25 people each. They involved floral crowns and Thanksgiving table arrangements.
Park district staffers conducted programs including:
•A Blue Moon Hike and Night Hike at Wolf Run Regional Park;
•Bird and Wildflower Walks at Honey Run Highlands and Wolf Run;
•Three Moonlit Mile bike rides on each of the multi-use trails (and each attended by about 60 participants);
•A Fall Color Hike at Indianfield Bluffs;
•Birding by Kayak on the Kokosing State Scenic River, attended by 16 people;
•Assisting the state Division of Watercraft/Scenic Rivers with a Kokosing River Float for 30 people in celebration of the state’s 50th anniversary of the State Scenic Rivers Act;
•Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist (OCVN) training for 11 people in partnership with the Knox County Extension;
•Current OCVN members leading a nature walk for Opening Trail Day on the Heart of Ohio Trail and a Nature Camp at Thayer Ridge Park;
•“Firsts” for the park district over the summer and fall, such as hosting a Bicycle Advocacy meeting in September for 45 attendees in conjuction with the Knox County Health Department; and seeing the Knox Woods State Nature Preserve (part of Wolf Run) dedicated in October as joining the Old-Growth Forest Network; and
•Hosting Fire and Ice 2018, Knox County Park District’s biggest event, ever, attended by close to 2,000 people at Honey Run Waterfall. More than 600 luminaria lighted the paths to the waterfall and the Kokosing State Scenic River. More than 20 volunteers and a half-dozen park district employees ensured that event would be a success, Totman said, adding that it tied in to Food for the Hungry with 2,340 pounds of food donated.