A Hiker’s Paradise

Oak Heritage Conservancy
opens Webster Woods Trail
to the public

The 40-acre property was donated by
Dan and Juanita Webster

HANOVER, Ind. (November 2014) – Southeast Indiana is an area rich in natural sites. To protect and preserve these lands, Oak Heritage Conservancy was formed, maintaining that the quality of life in this area is enhanced by its natural landmarks. Recently, the conservancy underwent a major project to build a trail at Webster Woods, a 40-acre plot of land west of Hanover, Ind., that had previously been donated by Dan and Juanita Webster.

Photo by Alyssa DelPrete

From left, Paul Carmony, Mike Modisett and Jan Kleopfer pose by
the sign at Webster Woods Nature Preserve, which recently opened
to the public. The preserve is
located west of Hanover, Ind.

The idea of creating a trail at Webster Woods was born in spring 2013, when the conservancy played host to an outing at the site for its members to walk the trail. However, Paul Carmony, who is on the conservancy’s board of directors, discovered, a clear trail did not exist.
“I came out and put a couple ribbons up around the trail. It took me three or four days to do that, and then we got lost,” said Carmony, 84. “I thought, ‘I put enough effort into this, we should make a trail out of it.’ ”
Beth Black, the conservancy’s vice president, took the reigns on the next phase of the project by obtaining a grant to help fund the endeavor. The grant was awarded from the Madison-Jefferson County Community Foundation, which was seeking a cause with an environmental mission in Jefferson County. The only site suitable for this goal, according to Black, was Webster Woods.
But Black was not only instrumental in the grant writing. “I helped build the trail,” she said. “Paul did the majority of the work, but on several occasions, I went out there and helped.”
The hiking trail is also significant because of the two people from whom the name originates: Dan and Juanita Webster.
The couple, who died merely seven months apart, in 2010 and 2011, were members of Oak Heritage Conservancy. Dan was one of the founders and served as vice president. Both have ties to Hanover College – Dan was a professor of biology for 35 years, and Juanita worked as a lab instructor in the biology department.
Shortly following the conservancy’s founding in 2002, the Websters donated the property that is now the location of the trail. When they owned the land, they had handled it as a nature preserve.
“Dan’s family is excited for him to be honored in this way,” Black said.
The conservancy serves nine counties in southeastern Ind.: Jefferson, Jennings, Switzerland, Ohio, Dearborn, Ripley, Washington, Clark, Scott and Decatur.
Oak Heritage Conservancy protects land by purchasing it or receiving donations. The conservancy also preserves sites through conservation easements, in which property owners keep their ownership but give up other rights to maintain protection of the land.
Webster Woods is an example of the type of conservation the non-profit organization pursues.
“I suspect we put 150 volunteer hours in the trail,” Carmony said. “I started on it in the spring of 2013. We just completed it in September.”
Jan Kleopfer, 59, a conservancy member and also volunteered on the trail, describes the opportunities Webster Woods offers, saying, “People who love the outdoors can learn from the signage. You can go birding, wild flowering and just enjoy spending time in nature.”
The signage to which Kleopfer refers is located throughout the trail, pointing out main features of the woods. For example, a sign has been constructed in front of a vernal pond, which was created from a wind-thrown tree and provides habitat for certain plants and animals. Carmony said conservancy members have deemed it the “frog pond” due to the large amount of frogs that typically gather there.
The signs explain these features, allowing hikers to learn about the woods as they go along the trail. Other notable attractions are snag trees, shining club moss and tulip trees.
“The trail has massive tulip trees from 1900, so they are well more than 100 years old,” Black said. “That is the key natural feature of the trail.”
The trail also includes posts to indicate the direction for hikers to turn, making it easy to navigate.
The trail takes roughly an hour to complete, looping around to end where it begins. It is the perfect trail for beginning hikers or those looking for a trail of moderate difficulty.
“The trail is special because of who gave it to us,” Carmony said. “They loved it so much and wanted it to be preserved. That’s what our job is: to preserve nature.”
The exact location is at the intersection of 1066 W. Street and Dead End Road. Take Hwy. 56 west from Hanover past the intersection of Hwy. 62. Then turn left and head south on S. 1066 West street until it meets Dead End Road.

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