MOUNT VERNON — One of the features that can be found in Knox County is the beauty of its parks, trails and rivers. For years the Knox County Park District has sought to offer recreational activities for the community to enjoy, from walking and hiking to canoeing and fishing. The KCPD continues to build upon a legacy to conserve and manage the county’s natural areas for public education and outdoor experience.
“The KCPD is so thankful that the voters of Knox County believed in the vision in a robust park and bike trail system,” said Kim Marshall, director of the park district. “And we have been very judicious in using the proceeds from the levy. It has truly helped us in buying new and used equipment, which helps us mow and maintain the parks for people to enjoy.
“And we have been able to acquire some new park properties. However, I am happy to say that in the case of the properties we did purchase, probably 95 percent of the purchased price was paid for by other state agencies, so we were able to leverage those levy funds to attract substantial dollars back to Knox County.”
This year 12,000 new trees were planted throughout Knox County by the park district with the help of Mount Vernon Academy and East Knox High School students, and the staff of the Brown Family Environmental Center, including in Indianfield Bluffs Park and the Riley Chapel canoe access.
Five parks were opened this year, four of which are Knox County Park District sites. One of the parks opened is Indianfield Bluffs Park, a 25.5-acre site with bluffs, floodplains, wetlands, an island and a 1.5-mile double loop trail that was recently extended.
“The public has commented very favorably on that trail system and the beauty of that small park,” said Marshall.
An additional 20 acres was purchased this year from Millwood Sand Co. for Honey Run Waterfall and opened to the public.
“We were able to put in a nice parking lot there and also improve upon the hiking. Now you can hike from Honey Run, the only known waterfall in Knox County, all the way to a gorgeous stretch of the Kokosing scenic river,” said Marshall.
Riley Chapel Road canoe access site was also opened. The land, about 30 acres, lies adjacent to Bat Nest Road access, creating a total of 133 acres in the lower Kokosing River valley.
“We were able to get grants from two state agencies to purchase that, put in a parking lot, and other amenities that people like to see like a picnic table and such. That site has been used quite heavily, and is actually opened to public hunting,” said Marshall. “And it’s also a site we are managing more for just wildlife habitat and that type of recreational opportunity.”
The newest member of the KCPD family is Thayer Ridge Park, a 70-acre park located on Thayer Road west of Mount Vernon off of Ohio 3/U.S. that opened in September.
“We actually opened that with the help of the Knox County Commissioners, and it is truly a park that I refer to as ‘from dump to destination,’” said Marshall. “It was originally purchased for a landfill expansion of the county landfill property, and truly an opportunity was realized for the landfill was closed for quite a few years and that the county dump could be turned into a destination.”
This park is unique, she said, because it is open for equestrian use and also mountain bike use.
“At this time we have about one mile of loop trails on the site that is open to horse back riding, hiking and mountain bikers,” said Marshall. “Another nice attribute to Thayer Ridge road Park is to eventually put in a trail right down the edge of that park linking it to the Heart of Ohio Trail.”
The KCPD also assisted the Fredericktown Recreation District with purchasing property next to Sockman Park.
“We really wanted to spend the levy proceeds to get the projects on the ground for the public to enjoy,” said Marshall. “We added amenities to about nine different parks this year: grills, tables and kiosks and those types of things that people have requested. We have opened four parks and paid for engineering development on the Heart of Ohio Trail, and at the same time we have done all this we have not increased the size of our staff.
“In terms for future plans, the park district will be fully engaged on the Heart of Ohio Trail in 2010 ... and [the public] will begin to see more asphalt pavement and more engineering design accomplished,” said Marshall.
Another project schedule for spring 2010 will be working with the local Mount Vernon Rotary Club to install a nine-hole Frisbee disc golf course.
“Just like golf, but you play with Frisbees,” said Marshall. “And it’s one of those activities that are growing in popularity and you don’t have to be a super athlete to enjoy it.”
With bouldering and rock climbing growing in popularity in the United States, boulders are in the process of being installed at Wolf Run Regional Park, next to the dog park.
“What we try to do is look at outdoor recreational trends and try to be proactive in providing those types of activities,” said Marshall.
The community has continued its support of the KCPD in many ways, she said, including help from park volunteers, the Mount Vernon Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, the Landers Foundation, the 2009 Leadership Knox class, and the Lucy Knox Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“And perhaps our most important partners are the voters of Knox County for believing in us, and helping us to realize these park developments and trail improvements and the free programs and events we are able to provide for families to enjoy,” said Marshall.