The Shawnee National Forest will be celebrating National Public Lands Day Sept. 28 this year with the "Ozark (Comeback) Tour," based on the Ozark Tours led from 1931 to 1948 by Col. Lindolph Oscar Trigg.
Trigg was an early and enthusiastic promoter of a national forest for Southern Illinois and dedicated much of his life to showing others the beauties of the region. The Ozark Tours, founded on L.O. Trigg's commitment to the establishment of the Shawnee National Forest, shepherded government officials and area boosters on sight-seeing expeditions throughout various sites of the Forest.
This year's tentative itinerary includes Hankerson Rude's blockhouse at Blockhouse Cemetery near Rudement, Glen O. Jones Lake, Eagle Mountain Road, Karber's Ridge to High Knob, Trigg's Resthaven retreat near Leamington, Illinois Iron Furnace, Cave-In-Rock, Garden of the Gods and possible camping at Pine Ridge Campground at Pounds Hollow. Various tour guides will interpret the locations.
In addition, for those public lands volunteers that want to get their hands dirty, there will be other out-of-door activities including mapping invasive species, testing water quality, or helping with trail maintenance and more during the Shawnee's NPLD celebration.
Pre-registration is required for all service projects and can be done so by contacting the Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District office at 618-833-8576. Participants will be able to choose from one of the four following volunteer service projects: Invasive species mapping on Indian Point Trail at the Garden of the Gods; an Aquatic Adventure at Garden of the Gods and Trash Bash (garbage pickup below the Observation Trail in Garden of the Gods Wilderness); and trail work at Panther Den.
Each activity will vary, providing ample opportunities for individuals of all ages. Participants under the age of 18 signing up for service work will require parental consent, and participants under the age of 16 will also need to be accompanied by an adult. Volunteer work will kick off at 9:30 a.m. and will end at 1 p.m.
In addition to activities planned in celebration of National Public Lands Day, the Forest is encouraging visitation by offering free camping. The Shawnee NF campgrounds included in the fee waiver are as follows: Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, Camp Cadiz, Pine Hills and Johnson Creek. Concessionaire operated campgrounds are not included in the fee waiver.
NPLD is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands and is a part of the National Environmental Education Foundation's Public Lands Every Day Program, which encourages Americans to enjoy, protect and maintain public lands through public engagement, professional development and partnerships. For more information on NPLD, visit http://www.publiclandsday.org.