Back in business (sort of)
Many functions at Ravine Gardens State Park have resumed, but repairs are ongoing to remove trees and fix erosion problems caused by Hurricane Irma.
When Irma struck the county in September, it caused severe erosion in the park, and that erosion is the reason cars and bicyclists are currently not allowed on the park’s 1.8-mile paved trail.
Park Manager Terri Newmans said park staff and volunteers have worked hard to make the park fully accessible, but getting the paved trail fully functioning won’t happen soon.
“The paved drive is open to pedestrians only,” Newmans said. “We are still dealing with the erosion, which will be a long-term project.”
The Ravines is open 8 a.m. until sunset seven days a week. Newmans said the paved trail and the unpaved Springs and Azalea trails are open to pedestrians, but there are still signs of hurricane damage throughout the park.
Erosion is the biggest problem the park faces, she said, and park officials are working with engineers to fix not only the paved drive but also overlooks and other areas in the park that were affected.
Although the unpaved trails suffered some erosion, it wasn’t as severe as the paved trail, Newmans said. But there are still fallen trees throughout the park, and some of them have blocked portions of the Springs and Azalea trails, Newmans said.
The unpaved trails “took a lot of erosion hits as well, so there are sections of the Springs Trail that are washed out,” Newmans said. “All the trails are open (to pedestrians). There are still a few trees down … but there are walk-arounds.”
Newmans said the trails are safe for pedestrians, but people on the trails should still look out for damage walking, running and hiking.
Irma whipped across Putnam County on Sept. 11, leaving destruction in its wake. The Ravines wasn’t spared damage, but Newmans said she and staff members were quick to get to work after the hurricane passed.
Newmans said she is aware many local residents use the Ravines for exercise, gatherings and other events, which is why park officials are working hard to restore the park to how it was before September.
“We had a debris removal crew here the day after (the hurricane),” Newmans said. “We actually had our staff here the day of the hurricane (after it passed).”
Newmans said erosion problems needed to be resolved before other problems could be fixed, and she doesn’t know when that will be.
It is important for the park to be fully functional because local residents love using it and people from out of county love to visit to view azaleas and other features, Newmans said.
She said people were upset certain functions were closed but understood that’s what could happen after a major hurricane.
“I believe everybody was frustrated when the trail was first closed,” Newmans said. “We’re pretty much back on track. The only issue we’re still facing is our erosion issue.”
Information about the park can be found by calling 329-3721.