Jackson-Washington State Forest and Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge are popular places to walk trails and discover the beauty of nature.
Did you ever consider heading to the far northwest corner of Jackson County and checking out all of the trails in the Hoosier National Forest?
Some people may not realize Salt Creek Township has numerous trails.
They are among the 57 trails in the county, and there also are 46 facilities offering recreational opportunities.
The best part of most of them? They are free and open to the public.
Even better, they now are included on the county’s online geographic information system map and can be viewed with a few clicks of the mouse.
“In our initial Healthy Jackson County coalition meeting, it was really determined that people wanted to be aware of all of the events and opportunities for physical activity within our county,” said Molly Marshall, a health and human sciences educator with Purdue Extension Jackson County. “It was like people knew things were going on, they just didn’t know how to get the information.”
The coalition members came up with a long list of trails and facilities and presented them to Jackson County Building Commissioner Conner Barnette, who added them to the GIS map. Employees of county departments use it to provide information to the public.
“I think that has really been key to Healthy Jackson County is trying to engage with our community partners and really utilizing everyone’s strengths to move this work forward,” Marshall said.
After clicking on the “Layers” tab on the toolbar and checking the box next to “Recreational facilities,” pink dots appear on the map to show where they are in the county. By checking the box next to “Recreational trails,” the trails show up in pink lines.
Information about the facilities or trails is available by clicking on the dots or lines.
After clicking on the “Index” tab and selecting “Facilities” or “Trails” under “Recreation,” detailed information is provided.
The facilities include fitness gyms, public parks, nonprofit organizations, schools, pools, gymnasiums, a dog park, a yoga studio, a health club, a gymnastics center, a skating rink and a dance studio.
With the schools, it includes playgrounds, tennis courts, a pool, a track and gymnasiums that are open to the public when school is not in session.
The list of trails includes the name, miles, type and surface, who manages it, if it can be used for hiking, exercising or biking and if it’s handicap-accessible.
The addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and websites of the trails and facilities are listed, too.
“Just looking at that northwest corner in Salt Creek Township, I had no idea that all of those trails are there,” Marshall said.
She also said a lot of people didn’t realize, for example, that the Brownstown Central High School track is open to the public for walking and running.
“Brownstown doesn’t have a gym, so we’re trying to promote the trails and the high school and trying to get those places out there to make sure people are aware of what’s available,” Marshall said.
She encourages people to check out the GIS map and see all that Jackson County has to offer.
“What we’re trying to highlight is that it’s free, it’s accessible and we’re just trying to encourage families and parents and people to utilize what we have,” she said.
Several people have expressed the need for a YMCA in the county, but money would be required to build and for memberships once it opens.
“Really, if we just utilize what we have and try to get that information out there, that would be a great start,” Marshall said.
The coalition also is working with city and refuge officials on a bike trail from near the Interstate 65 interchange into the refuge east of Seymour.
“We’re making those connections with the trails that are going on in Seymour and connecting people to various things,” Marshall said of the Crossroads Community Trails initiative.
Also, the coalition is working with the Jackson County Visitor Center to add a health and recreation tab on its website, which soon will be redone.
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To view the recreational facilities and trails in Jackson County, visit jacksonin.wthgis.com. Then click on the “Layers” tab at the top and check the boxes next to “Recreational facilities” and “Recreational trails.”
To see a list of the facilities and trails, click on the “Index” tab and then click on “Facilities” or “Trails” under “Recreation.”