The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

    Stroll through Fox Ridge Trails

    As summer nears an end and autumn dawns upon us, the temperature will lower as we get closer and closer to 2008.

    For those who like to be outdoors without sweating profusely, something to do that’s not only physically, but visually exciting, is hiking.

    Fox Ridge State Park offers 14 miles of trail, containing nine different trails within the 14 miles.

    “The park was started in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Core,” said Art Jewell, Fox Ridge park ranger. “They helped put in the original eight miles of trail. The eight mile trail is a combination of several trails; Trail of Trees, Acorn Avenue and parts of Riverview.”

    In the late 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Core would carry a bag of gravel out onto the trail, and wherever the last person would dump his bag, they would dump their bag there and go on, Jewell said.

    Aside from having many miles of scenic trails, Fox Ridge is known for its steep ridges and local wildlife.

    The most common animals spotted are various birds such as turkeys, turkey vultures, hawks, owls and quails. Forest mammals such as pheasant, deer, foxes, squirrels, raccoons and rabbits can also be seen at Fox Ridge, which is located just eight miles south of Charleston on Rt. 130.

    Fox Ridge’s hiking trails range from easy to rugged in difficulty.

    “Some of them, like the Riverview are rugged trails,” said Jodi McKinney, Fox Ridge’s office coordinator. “It’s a little over five miles long, so that’s the longest trail. And then we’ve got some short trails that are two-tenths of a mile.”

    The steep inclines make for a wide variety of difficulties on the trails, though. The steeper ones fall under the “rugged” category.

    “Our trails go through the ravines out here,” McKinney said. “Some of them are on a steeper hill and some of them have a lot of stairs.”

    The Eagle’s Nest trail contains over 100 stairs, and is considered “rugged.”

    “You can get a good workout on them,” McKinney said. “We have a lot of people come out and jog the trails. The Riverview trail is really nice; it’s very pretty because it goes along the river, and that’s the one that’s five miles and it’s rugged.”

    The park rangers maintain the trails, keeping them cut, clean and useable to the public.

    “The Riverview trail we try to mow at least once a month,” Jewell said. “We have a horse trail here for equestrians. That gets mowed about every month or two months. Whenever we do a trail inspection, we try to make sure what needs to be mowed. The rest of the trails are very wide, so we don’t need to mow them often at all.”

    McKinney also added that during the inspections, they make sure there are no large fallen tree branches on the trails and that the trials remain safe.

    “A lot of times people come up and tell us, ‘Hey there’s a tree branch in such and such place and it’s pretty big,’ and then we’ll have to go down and clean it up,” she said.

    Jewell takes care of the trails and makes sure they stay well kept and that the park is clean.

    “I do a little bit of everything,” Jewell said. “I help clean shower buildings, shelters, restrooms and things like that. I work on trails, mow and pick up trash; that sort of thing.”

    The park, however, does not have a litter problem.

    “We do keep trash cans down on the trail system and really, we don’t have a lot of problems with littering,” McKinney said.

    Something Fox Ridge doesn’t allow is biking. The reason for this is the park wants to make sure the trails stay nice.

    Not only does the wear from biking make the trails difficult to hike on, but the park’s many ravines make it dangerous as well.

    “It is hard on trails,” McKinney said. “Since we’re in a ravine, it would not be safe at all. There’s no good way to get down into the main trails system on a bike.”

    Another feature at Fox Ridge State Park is Ridge Lake. While there are no trails around the lake, people can walk along the edge.

    Jewell said the reason there are no trails there is because of signs going towards it that would make placing a trail very difficult.

    The lake, instead, serves mostly as a place people can go to fish or row around in on a nice day.

    The lake is currently closed and tentatively anticipated to re-open on Memorial Day of 2008.

    “Right now they’re working on the spillway so they had to close it,” McKinney said.

    Ridge Lake is normally open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

    “It’s operated by the Natural History Survey and they want to weigh and measure every fish, so there is no bank fishing (currently) allowed,” Jewell said.

    The park provides boats, oars and cushions, but prohibits anyone from bringing a motorboat, because those are not allowed.

    Even though Ridge Lake is seasonal, the park is open all year long. It is open 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. from April to October and 8:30 a.m. to sunset during the winter months.

    People from all age groups and nearby locations visit the state park.

    “We have people from Charleston and Mattoon that come over,” Jewell said. “We have high school classes come from Mattoon or Kansas, grade schools, college kids and families come. So it’s a good combination.”

    In addition to hiking and row boating, Fox Ridge also offers volleyball nets, a basketball court, horseshoes and two softball fields.

    Stroll through Fox Ridge Trails

    Stroll through Fox Ridge Trails

    Roger Hilzer of Charleston looks for the Eagles Nest trail in Fox Ridge State Park, south of Charleston on Rt. 130, Tuesday afternoon. “I have not been hiking much lately because of the hot weather, but today seems so much cooler and a lot nicer to go hik


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