Site cleared for basic camping along trail

A crew clears brush for a primitive campsite along the Prairie Grass Trail in London. The site will have room for up to six tents for long-distance trail users.
A crew clears brush for a primitive campsite along the Prairie Grass Trail in London. The site will have room for up to six tents for long-distance trail users.

(Posted April 1, 2016)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

On April 16, the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT) will open a new primitive camping area at the Prairie Grass Trailhead in London.

The site, located behind the Madison County Senior Center at 280 W. High St. and along the multi-purpose trail that runs through London, can accommodate up to six tents. A restroom, water, electricity, shelter house and picnic tables are available at the trailhead.

“Plans are to have two wooden tent decks and on-grounds tent sites available,” said Wayne Roberts, FMCPT executive director. “This limited facility is not intended to fundraise, but to be a service for long-distance trail users.”

Camping will be on a first come, first served basis with donations accepted but not required.

FMCPT hopes to gather data on the site’s use, asking users to fill out a short survey about the number of people in their party, where they were coming from and where they were headed, and what they thought of the site. FMCPT will use the information to determine whether or not additional camping is warranted along the trail.

For the last several months, FMCPT and the Madison County Park District Board (comprised of the three county commissioners) have pursued the idea of establishing trailside camping. One of the original ideas was for the park district to purchase several acres near the Prairie Grass Trailhead for traditional tent camping and an observation tower that could double as vertical camping. A second idea was to purchase city-owned property at the former tile mill to develop a campsite along Maple Street near the Roberts Pass Trailhead.

Both ideas depended on securing a Clean Ohio grant, but neither concept fit easily into the grant’s requirements, which favors greenspace development over facility construction. Additionally, FMCPT members felt that, as a non-profit group of volunteers, they are not equipped at this time to take on management of a large-scale project.

Roberts said the group’s focus right now is on primitive camping behind the senior center, working with the railroad to connect the Prairie Grass and Roberts Pass trails through down-town London, and further developing the four acres FMCPT owns near the Roberts Pass Trailhead off of Maple Street. The group also has contacted MATCO Services about collaborating on facility development.

“You guys need to feel comfortable with what you are doing,” said David Dhume, Madison County commissioner, in a meeting with FMCPT representatives on March 21.

Julia Cumming, who serves as a consultant and grant writer for the park district, said she would look for other grant opportunities that focus more on facility development.

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