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Stimulus funds to improve HNF trails

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Vandals nearly drain German Ridge Lake

By Vince Luecke

TELL CITY -  More federal economic-stimulus funds are en route to the Hoosier National Forest, U.S. Forest Service officials announced last week.

The forest will receive $200,000 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for trail work within the nine-county area of the Hoosier National Forest.

Repairs and upgrades to trailheads and parking areas are designed to improve public access and safety for trail users. Much of the work will be done over the next two years through contracting and summer students.

"This is a great opportunity to improve our trail system and protect forest resources," said Les Wadzinski, the Hoosier National Forest's recreation-program manager.

In Perry County, German Ridge, Two Lakes Loop and Oriole West trails will receive improvements through federal spending. Work in other counties will improve Hickory Ridge, Shirley Creek, Young's Creek, Lick Creek and Deam Wildnerness trails.

The Forest Service trails system provides access to hikers, horseback and mountain bikers and, when winter snows allow, even cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Perry County's federal trail system is popular with campers and local horseback riders.

Benefits of maintaining the trails system, Wadzinski said, are similar to those of maintaining forest roads. Trail maintenance includes protecting soils and reducing erosion, clearing vegetation, controlling invasive plant species and removing downed trees. Storms over the past year have downed trees in many areas of the forest.

Trails funding follows a $350,000 dose of federal money announced in June that will help reduce the risk of damaging wildfires in the Hoosier National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service and Hoosier National Forest are receiving the money to reduce downed trees near firebreaks designed to keep fires in check.

That money is also coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

That project includes improving fire lines for wildfire-suppression efforts and establishing perimeters for future prescribed burns. Work will also be done through contracting over two years and will begin in Perry and Crawford counties, where a considerable amount of ice damage occurred.  

German Ridge Lake Falls Victim

Visitors to German Ridge Lake will find very low water levels after someone opened a valve, allowing water to exit the lake that has been a popular destination for more than half a century.

Forest officials said the valve was tampered with on two occasions.

Anyone with information on who is responsible is asked to contact the Tell City Ranger Station at 547-7051.

Picnic areas around the lake will remain open until Sept. 8.

Unrelated to low water levels caused by vandals, sections of the German Ridge Trail in the Tell City Ranger District of the Hoosier National Forest will be closed weekdays through the end of the year.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the closure is to ensure the safety of trail users during the German Ridge Restoration Project, which includes a timber sale to remove selected pine trees.  

The trail closure is from Mondays through Fridays only. The trail will remain open on weekends.

For information on closings, call the ranger station at 547-7051.