We in Lexington are fortunate to have three designated natural areas under the care of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation: McConnell Springs, Raven Run and Hisle Farm Park. On November 5 Wild Ones offers an opportunity for our members and Friends to hear from the newly appointed director for these natural areas, Jennifer Hubbard-Sanchez.
According to an LFUCG brochure called Bring Back the Bluegrass, “Lexington’s natural areas exist to preserve the beauty of the Kentucky Bluegrass Region.” Each natural area is unique. However all are open for public use, all three are noted as good spots for bird watching and all are managed to promote native plants. You are all probably familiar with McConnell Springs, a smaller park of 26 acres located right in town. I was sure I was lost on my first visit because the road into the park runs right through an industrial area. The park has walking trails for foot traffic only; it is a unique experience to walk through the trees hearing (and sometimes smelling) the industrial processes going on out of sight. McConnell Springs has a number of very interesting hydrological features and a 250 year old Burr Oak. The park gets a 4.5 rating on Tripadvisor.com; visitors noted the nice visitor’s center, the trails and the charm of this park in the middle of industry. The Friends of McConnell Springs is a 501c(3) organization that works with LFUCG to support the park as a historical site and natural area. In 2019 Wild Ones provided a grant to support the planting of native shrubs in a detention basin in front of the McConnell Springs visitor’s center.
Located in south eastern Fayette County along the Kentucky River, Raven Run is a much larger park at 734 acres. The park showcases the Kentucky River Palisades (including flora and fauna) and is known for its wonderful spring wildflower display. I’m sure you have enjoyed wildlife viewing and scenic overlooks along the 10 miles of walking trails. It always feels very remote from the city even though it is within Fayette County. I have found it especially enjoyable during the pandemic since this popular park is subject to capacity restrictions; however, currently (in October 2020) pre-registration is required for hiking. Raven Run is also supported by a 501c(3) organization, the Friends of Raven Run. Volunteers work on invasive plant control and trail maintenance. Raven Run has a nature center with a native plant garden in front.
Hisle Farm Park is the newest (and least known by the public) Fayette County natural area. My first visit was this year for a Wild Ones event. It is on an old 280 acre farm with wide trails through rolling pasture land about 5 miles north east of the city. Trails are shared use for hiking or horse riding, leashed pets are allowed. The old farm pond is available for fishing. The website greatruns.com notes Hisle Park as a good place for a hilly trail run in Kentucky horse country. Apparently, Hisle Farm Park does not have a Friends organization yet and it isn’t listed on TripAdvisor, so now is the perfect time to visit this park. As part of the creation of the LFUCG 2018 Master Plan, the public expressed a need for more hiking opportunities, walking trails and more natural areas. LFUCG Parks and Recreation Management’s goal is to naturalize more park space in Fayette County benefitting both people and wildlife. So, join us for our November 5 Zoom meeting to explore the future of our Fayette County natural areas.