YHCC at O'Bannon Woods
- Age: 24
- Hometown: Corydon
Location: O'Bannon Woods State Park
- Duty: Trail Accessibility
Getting access to the outdoors can be frustrating for individuals with physical challenges. While the DNR has made efforts on most properties to provide accessibility, more can be done to help all who desire to get out into the wild and enjoy nature’s gifts.
This past summer, Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps workers spent months constructing a new “accessibility trail” at O’Bannon Woods State Park to help those who can benefit from such assistance get into the woods.
Imagine the following scenario: Growing up, a young man develops a passion for the outdoors. Then tragedy strikes on the battlefield or in a car accident. He can no longer get around easily. He can't get into the forest on traditional trails. He can't pursue his passion.
Bob Sawtelle doesn't need to imagine such pain. The property manager of O’Bannon Woods State Park, has witnessed countless such individuals trying to enjoy nature.
“It’s heart wrenching,” Sawtelle said. “You see these people struggling to do the simple things we who have the ability often take for granted, and it makes you stop and think about how lucky you are.”
Thanks to the efforts of the YHCC workers and a $300,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation, Access to Recreation and Harrison County Community Foundation Grant, a mile-long accessible trail now weaves through the forest at O’Bannon Woods State Park. The trail is conducive to wheelchair and golf cart use.
"This trail was made possible by partnering the grant money, which provided for all materials and supplies with the YHCC program, which provided the needed labor," Sawtelle said.
Anthony Byrd, 24, of Corydon was a leader among the YHCC workers at O’Bannon Woods State Park.
“Working on the accessibility trail has been very special. At first, I just thought we were building a regular ol’ trail, but as I’ve been able to watch people use the trail, who normally wouldn’t be able to get out in the woods, I’ve realized that we’ve helped make life a little better for some people. It feels really good to know we’ve helped others,” Byrd said.
The trail takes users past a meadow where birds can be called in using special electronic calls. A fully enclosed observation blind has been built where trail users can sit and observe the birds and other wildlife.
“Having someone from your community, a neighbor like Anthony, working on something like the accessibility trail makes all the difference. They realize they’re working on their park for their neighbors. Most of the YHCC workers really took ownership of this project, and now the community, and visitors, will be benefit from the YHCC efforts for years to come,” Sawtelle said.
Across Indiana, YHCC workers have taken pride in projects as important as restoring native dunes habitat, to as mundane as mowing grass. Now, thanks to Byrd and his YHCC co-workers, physically challenged visitors to O’Bannon Woods State Park will have an opportunity to experience nature first-hand, out in the forest.