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BY MIKE AVITT
The Dragoon Trace Nature Center is located about two miles east of Mount Ayr, next to Poe Hollow Park. The Nature Center opened in 2017, but when did Poe Hollow open?
It was announced in April 1967, that Ringgold County had received a matching federal grant of $2,800. The money would be used to establish a county park to be called Poe Hollow; a park complete with camping and picnic sites, artificial lake, and hiking trails. This effort was spearheaded by Operation Golden Eagle, a program designed to make more lands and waters available for recreation.
Not much happened until 1969, although Wayne Jarred was paid $135, by the Board of Supervisors, in December 1967 for labor.
On June 22, 1969, construction began in earnest on the 72 acre park. As soon as the road was completed, work started on the Shelter houses. The east end of the road would serve the campsites, complete with water and restroom facilities. The federal funds granted went for buying the land. The construction costs came from county sources. Members of the Ringgold County Conservation Board were: Bud Beymer (chairman), Lyle Hosfield, Chet Gibson, Duane Miller, and Barton Turner.
Most construction was finished in 1970. Another federal grant, this one for $4,000, aided in the completion. Hutchinson Seed Company seeded the grounds and Baker Well Co. was hired to put in the well and water lines. The playground equipment came from (get this) Miracle Playground Company, of Grinnell. Sargent Quarries supplied the gravel with Ringgold County Secondary Roads doing the spreading. By this time, Lyle Hosfield was Chairman of the Ringgold County Conservation Board, and Ivan Shields had replaced Barton Turner on the board.
The park seems to be open to the public by July 1970 when a new sign was placed at the entrance.
I worked for the RCCB in 1977 under director Mark Versch. I remember Mark telling me to hop the fence and trim the walnut trees on the Burlington Northern right-of-way, north of Poe Hollow. When I informed Mark we didn’t own that land, he said, “We will soon.” The BN ran their last train here in May 1977 and the RCCB did buy that land from the railroad. Today, that land is part of Poe Hollow Park and Ringgold Trailway. Way to go, Mark.