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Come walk with Jefferson College

Slip on your hiking boots, grab some bug spray, and come out to Historic Jefferson College at 10 a.m. Saturday. After two long years, we finished up a Rural Trails Project grant, made possible by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

As part of the grant, HJC built a new Pond Trail, benches, steps and walkways and installed 15 full-color informational signs along the trails. On Saturday, the public is invited to an opening reception that “officially” opens the new trail — be prepared to walk all or a portion of the trail to see the signs!

Although many people in the Miss-Lou are familiar with Historic Jefferson College as a Mississippi state-owned historic site, not everyone knows that we also have a 40-acre section of forested land behind the buildings. This area contains three trails, a small cemetery, four bridges, two creeks, deep ravines, old growth forest, five species of woodpeckers, a wide variety of fungi, most of Mississippi’s major mammal groups and plenty of other things to see, hear and smell.

The Long Trail is about a mile long, winds through upland forest, down to the St. Catherine Creek streambed, and ends behind Raymond Hall. The Short Trail is about half a mile. Both are hilly and rugged. The new Pond Trail begins next to the small pond, runs through a kudzu field and forest and connects into the last part of the Long Trail, and is also about half a mile long.

Along the trail are signs that give information about some of the plants and animals you may see in the area throughout the year. Sign topics include “Mammals,” “Sunny Spaces,” “Plants of the South,” “St. Catherine Creek,” and 11 others. Mississippi photographers provided many of the images on the signs, including, Joe Mac Hudspeth Jr., Bryan Adams, Larry Basden and Bryan Fedrick, as well as Susie Roy, George Roberts, and Shirley Byrne, from Natchez. Other photographers included Saundra Dowling (Fla.), Megan Gibbons (Ala.), John Hartgerink (La.), J.D. Nesbitt (Ga.) and Dick Newell (Calif.), and the staff of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

This successful completion of this project was a group effort! The Adams County Master Gardeners helped to establish the topics for the signs, while the staff of the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science read through the text for factual accuracy.  MDAH staff proofread each sign before final design and creation.

The walkways were constructed by the Natchez Trace Kiwanis Club and Key Club, as part of their One Day volunteer project, and they also spent many hours weeding, cutting and raking the new trail.

Trail blazing, maintenance and sign placement were all done by Phillip Williams and George Scott, our MDAH groundskeepers.

The trails are open 365 days a year, sunup-sundown. For more information, contact me at 601-442-2901 or rperson@mdah.state.ms.us.

Robin Seage Person is the branch director of Historic Jefferson College.