MOUNT VERNON — In the near future, by the time of the Knox County Fair in August 2020, the Ramser 4-H Activity Center on the hill above the fairgrounds will be open.
And the 10 acres it’s a part of — known as the Knox County Natural Resources Area, and owned by the Knox County 4-H Planning Committee — will be offering nature hikes down to the fairgrounds entrance, pollinator garden habitats to beautify and maintain, oodles of picnic tables for lunch gatherings, and an “around the clock” archery range with 16 targets of varying distances. The 4-H activity center’s spacious 7,000 square feet of confines, with a 200-seat conference space upstairs, and several classrooms downstairs will provide meeting space for numerous organizations. The 4-H activity center and the Natural Resources Area will support the activities of the other, putting the 10-acres into heavy recreational use.
But now is the time of year for first things first, said Paul Helser, a self-employed naturalist who is a Natural Resources Area board member. The board is holding work days June 5, June 26, and July 17, from 5-7 p.m. each day, to work on several outdoor projects aimed at getting the 10 acres into tip-top shape for its future event participants to enjoy. The 10-acre site, which used to be Seventh Day Adventist property with a school and residential area, has acres of field and wooded area to maintain.
“During our work days we will be clearing trails, cutting up downed trees on the trails, removing non-native invasive species from the woodlot, removing the fencing and backstop from the old softball diamond, and sprucing up the large concrete water tank on the site,” Helser said. He added that mulching the walking trails, and removing invasive species like bush honeysuckle, will be an important part of the work days.
The Knox County Natural Resources Area was created in 2017 to bring recreational outdoor activities to children and adults in Knox County, and soon after a board formed to discuss how to maintain the site and enhance its offerings, Helser said. Members are committed to sustaining the natural environment, with board members including representatives from such entities as the Knox Soil and Water Conservation District, the Knox County Park District and, of course, 4-H representatives.
But all local residents who want to see the Knox County Natural Resources Area are welcome to volunteer on the three work day dates, Helser said. All they need to do is bring a pair of work gloves and a bottle of drinking water.
Those with questions may call Helser, 740-501-3469, or Jake Peer, 740-393-6724. The work days have been held at the Natural Resources Area the past two years and have been successful due to the number of youths and adults who participate, he offered.