For The Tribune
Twenty members of the junior and senior classes at Medora High School participated in a civics class outreach project involving the Knobstone Trail and Sparksville Park near the end of the school year.
The effort, led by teacher Pat Bahan, marks the third straight year Medora students have worked on projects related to the backcountry hiking trail, developed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and park, which is owned and operated by Jackson County.
Students worked on seven different projects:
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Lillie Hatfield, Griffin Morris and Marsadeez Phillips, roadside trail markers
Taylor Hunter, Brittany Albertson and Elexus Morris, woodland trail clearing and digging
Charlene Hillenburg, Caylin Farmer and Matthew Wilkerson, trail blazing
Joshua Turner, Morgan Dunn and Prayon Phillips, sign installation
Lance Lanier, parking lot and trail mowing
Dustin Fox, Clayton Cornett and Skylar Jones, willow tree eradication in parking lot
Gavin Henson, Asher Morley, Kaleb Sturgill and Patrick Silvers, Knobstone Hiking Trail gate construction on Third Street in Sparksville
At the end of the day, the students had a lot to show for their efforts.
“I loved the work, but we sweated the whole day,” Wilkerson said.
“A lot of work, but fun,” she said.
Albertson called it fun, too, but an adventure.
Larry Raymer of Brownstown helped build the gate. He is president of the Jackson County Park Board.
The sign project was the last commitment made to an Owen-Carr Township grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County for the park, which was established in 2004.
Temperatures neared the 90s, and the hardest workers were those hacking out the willows that had overgrown the limestone gravel-covered parking lot next to the woodland trail entrance.
The trees had advanced enough that park mowers were no longer able to mow it. With this work done, Lanier was able to mow the lot, making the post and trail entrance visible.
With the new signs near the parking area and privy at the park picnic pavilions, visitors are now able to see a trail map.
The Rev. Steve Schaftlein led the sign project.
Signposts and trail arrows were put up by Pat Bahan’s crew and showed the way to the woodland trails from the pavilions.
This project is part of a much larger enterprise, the building of the 150-mile Knobstone Hiking Trail by the Knobstone Hiking Trail Association through south central Indiana.
The big trail sign has panels that tell the history of the trail.
Still to come are the Sparksville town history panels.
The park’s founding impetus stemmed from a need for a public camping place along the trail, as the trail is largely on private land easement access tracks in southern Jackson County and across the river, where camping is prohibited.
Bahan’s trail-marking crew posted signposts to mark the 150-mile trail path through Sparksville and to the park’s trails.
For the record, many local Sparksville residents are park supporters. One allowed Bahan’s trail-marking crew to put a plastic signpost right in the middle of her mailbox flowerbed with the new trail decal on it.
The roadside trail markers are designed to help connect hikers to one of the other most notable projects of the work day.
That would be a gate that allows the trail through Sparksville to leave the road (Third Street) and follow the easement route along the property line of resident John Howard’s property.
Hikers will now be able to hike up to the ridge above Sparksville without first using John’s driveway and passing John’s front porch.
The least glamorous work was done by the trail-clearing gang. Bahan and his workers found one of the park’s hidden special features: A wetland pond. Some lucky students heard the pond’s customary wood duck’s whistling wings as they approached the pond on the workday.
With the aid of Lanier’s skill maneuvering of Raymer’s riding mower, the trail-clearing work went much faster this year. This is one park project that will always need some work, as some of the wooded areas are formerly cleared fields. The trail, however, is well enough established now that mowing may suffice in the future in most places.
The park’s major construction tasks are done, but it will always need some continued annual care. The park can use a local volunteer to take on trail monitoring four times a year. This local sponsor could report to the Jackson County Park Board any needed work, such as dead fall trees blocking the trails.
It’s hoped that student groups will be moving on to help construct new trail sections for future National Trails Day and civics class projects.
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For information, contact Larry Raymer at [email protected] or the park’s sponsoring organization, the Knobstone Hiking Trail Association, at [email protected].