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Hiking trail dedication set at Crooked Creek Preserve

Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission

Officials have scheduled the dedication of a 1.35 mile hiking trail at Crooked Creek State Nature Preserve with a free guided hike for attendees.

"This will be a great addition to the Crooked Creek Preserve," said Lewis County Judge Executive Todd Ruckel. "The trail will be open to the public during the daytime hours and will offer some of the best views to be found."

Ruckel said the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission (KSNP) is joining Lewis County Fiscal Court for the opening of the trail on the 728 acre preserve.

The trail dedication will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 15, and will be followed by the guided hike.

The entrance to the Crooked Creek State Nature Preserve and access to the trail is about nine miles north of Tollesboro at 1797 Chalk Ridge Road (Ky. Rt. 3309).

Following the dedication, the trail will be open to visitors from sunrise to sunset.

Ruckel said both KSNP and Lewis County Fiscal Court are seeking new ways to promote the values of healthy living and boost tourism interest.

He said the trail will provide passive, low-impact recreation and educational opportunities.

Ruckel said county road crews will assist with parking lot upkeep, routine mowing and trail maintenance.

The KSNP will develop trail maps and educational materials, as well as manage habitat along the trail and surrounding nature preserve.

"We are excited to partner with Kentucky State Nature Preserves to offer our residents these opportunities," Ruckel said. "This gives our citizens another way to enjoy our beautiful county while helping to maintain a healthy lifestyle."

The trail highlights the glade and barrens habitat that KSNP has conserved on the site since 1998. Visitors will be able to see a diverse number of grassland plants, including Indian paintbrush and blazing star, as well as the variety of butterflies and bees that pollinate these unique openings in the oak/hickory forest.

The woods surrounding the glades give birders opportunities to spot Kentucky warblers, wood thrush and ovenbirds.

In spring and fall, the preserve is managed with prescribed fire to maintain these open areas. The trails will be closed when burning occurs, but visitors will soon note how quickly the site greens up after a fire, according to information from KSNPC.

“Nature preserves serve two primary functions. One is to conserve Kentucky’s rare species and to provide places for citizens and tourists and two is to enjoy a peaceful hike in the woods," said Zeb Weese, KSNPC Executive Director.

“Besides its ecological significance, Crooked Creek is less than 30 minutes from Maysville and Vanceburg, so it is an ideal location," Weese added. "We are particularly indebted to citizens who continue to purchase 'Nature’s Finest' license plates, which are used by the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund to conserve and manage this site.”

Crooked Creek Barrens State Nature Preserve was established when the original 60-acre tract was dedicated on June 15, 1999. Today, 728 acres make up this unique preserve in Lewis County.

The preserve features a unique oak barrens community and adjacent oak-hickory forest. Prairie species such as big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum var. luciae-brauniae) occur in the barrens areas.

The site also protects five rare plant species: starry false Solomon's seal (Maianthemum stellatum), white rattlesnake root (Prenanthes alba), slender blazing-star (Liatris cylindracea), earleaf foxglove (Agalinis auriculata) and scarlet Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea).

Land for the preserve was purchased with the assistance of Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund and American Electric Power.

For more information on Kentucky State Nature Preserves go to http://naturepreserves.ky.gov

(The Ledger Independent is online at: http://www.maysville-online.com)