LETART — A hidden gem for nature lovers, and those who would rather hike in the woods than be on social media, can be found at the Letart Nature Park.
The park, as it exists today, came about a few years ago when residents asked the Mason County Commission not to sell off over 200 acres behind the Letart Community Building. The commission agreed to halt the attempt at a sale if residents could come up with a viable option to use the property for the public.
With a lot of elbow grease and volunteer labor, the Letart Nature Park was developed to its current state with more to come. Like the property it sits in, this vision will be years in the making but the park is off to a good, solid start.
The park, which sits directly behind the community building, currently has two major trails on the property with many others that branch off from the beaten path, according to Marilyn Kearns, who is on the Nature Park’s development committee. Kearns said the major trails were based off of old logging trails from years ago. In addition, the U.S. Army National Guard has assisted the committee with doing drainage work and helping to clear trails as well, as have countless volunteers. Volunteers mow, weed eat and maintain the park, making it truly a grassroots effort.
Though two major trails are viable and visible with a map created by a surveyor located at the base of the park, the trails have not yet been marked with signage beyond the entrances, though that is coming in the future, Kearns said.
Mason County Tourism Director Denny Bellamy said the nature park has a lot of potential when it comes to drawing in outside visitors to a state that openly courts nature lovers to it. Bellamy has met with the park board committee about his idea for developing mountain bike trails on the property.
“It would take some nerve,” Bellamy said about riders wanting to take on the trails at the park. “For those who like the Hatfield and McCoy trail, we’ve got a smaller version of it here.”
Bellamy said he’s heard of some mountain bikers already utilizing the existing trails at the park to ride.
“We’ve accomplished a lot and we’re not slacking off, but we are trying to set realistic goals for each year,” Kearns explained. “This is a project that will last for many years we hope, and we will keep making improvements.”
Improvements will also likely include better access to two ponds on the property.
Those who make up the park committee are all volunteers. The group meets once a month to touch base and plan events, like the upcoming Letart Homecoming which will be held at the community center at 2 p.m., Saturday June 10. There will be music, food, kiddie games and a tractor show. The homecomings started around the same time the park committee formed about three years ago.
“We decided to officially have a homecoming event each year to encourage everyone to come and get to know the area, spend the day, talk to people, get to know people at the park,” Kearns said, adding it was a great opportunity for those in Letart and those who have moved away, to reconnect.
Kearns said when it comes to those monthly meetings, they have a “really good turnout as far as people coming to help and we’re happy about it.” She said the group has never paid anybody to help with the upkeep of the park with volunteers as stewards who donate time, gas and equipment to the cause.
“Anything we need somebody brings it and we work together,” she said.
As for why those in Letart had such a strong reaction to the possible sale of the acreage behind the community building a few years ago, Kearns said she could only speak for herself but even prior to the county getting the property: “The whole community used it for hiking and hunting and I guess, everyone wanted to see it stay. Even when it was privately owned, everyone was welcome..it was almost like the community owned it even then.”
Find the Letart Nature Park Development Organization on Facebook for more information. The nature trail is free and open to the public to explore.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at email@example.com.