Athens County has a new outdoor recreation option — backpacking on the trails around Strouds Run State Park. The Athens Conservancy has created the county’s first backpacking campsite on the Blair Preserve adjacent to the park.

The campsite, which is owned by the Athens Conservancy, was created with funding from the Athens Foundation from its fall 2009 funding round. It was established on a scenic site beneath high cliffs, overlooking a valley. It features a fire ring, picnic table, information kiosk, firewood rack, tenting spaces, lantern posts, clothesline, and a very large rock.

According to a news release, the campsite can comfortably accommodate up to six users, but may be used by up to a dozen people. The site is free and open to all users. Donations for maintenance are welcome. The site is reserved for hunters during deer gun season. Other times, the campsite may be reserved for user groups. E-mail info@athensconservancy.org for reservations.

All users are expected to pack out all their trash except for paper trash that may be burned in the fire ring. Campers must also pack in their own water, since none is available at the site.

There will be an open house at the site on Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. Refreshments will be available. The camp is located 3/4 mile from Strouds Run Road. “This is the maximum distance from a road that we were able to build the campsite,” said John Knouse, project manager. “A rule of thumb for trail-oriented facilities is to site them at least half a mile from the nearest road in order to discourage casual vandalism.”

The camp was created in conjunction with another ongoing trail project, the creation of the Trace Trail. This is a new mile-long trail being built on the Blair Preserve and Strouds Run land. It is planned as an alternate route linking the Athens Trail system with the Strouds Run trail system. This trail route will provide a shorter Athens-to-Strouds Run option, cutting 0.6 mile off the next shortest route. It will be easier for beginning bicyclists, as well as being a safer winter route. In addition, the trail will enable a four-mile loop hiking option from Strouds Run Road, as well as providing access to the campsite. The route for the trail was chosen because it generally follows an old abandoned road trace that is believed to have been the Chillicothe-Marietta Stage Road, which was the area’s original through-route two centuries ago.

To reach the campsite, take Strouds Run Road from Athens to Strouds Run State Park. Park at the Pioneer Cemetery Trailhead, which is the first parking area on the right after entering the park, just past the large field. Take the trail across the stream, and turn right at the first intersection. Signage will be provided on the trail to guide visitors.

For information, contact Knouse at 502-608-2394 or jknouse@frognet.net.

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