FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A popular Allen County park will remain closed for the foreseeable future as the process of cleaning up from the June 13 derecho is still in its early stages.
WANE 15 visited Fox Island County park on Wednesday, exactly one month after the storm knocked down more than 1,000 trees in the park.
The Park and Education Manager for Fox Island, Natalie Haley, said they’re still assessing the damage with an assist from a drone operated by the Allen County Department of Homeland Security.
Haley said they’ve counted 1,050 trees down that are blocking trails so far, but they aren’t done assessing and there could be hundreds more. That doesn’t count trees that aren’t blocking trails.
Many of the trees were 50 to 100 years old. Some were 100 feet tall or bigger.
All of that still has to be cleared out, plus there are trees that now have large branches hanging over trails that are considered safety threats and need to be removed.
On top of the damage, every decision has to be brought before the park’s board and Allen County officials because part of the park is a nature preserve protected by various state laws.
“It’s just been a process and we would all like to see it be cleaned up as soon as possible, but we’re also going to take into account that we want to see the best possible, I want to say, restoration of this forest ecosystem that we can give it,” Haley said.
Part of that process is finding the right contractor. They have to use equipment that won’t tear up the ground when they drive around.
Last month, park officials told WANE 15 there was hope to reopen sometime in July.
Haley told WANE 15 on Wednesday that they don’t have a timetable for a reopening, but would like to see it happen sooner than later because the park is losing revenue being closed.
She added that they’ll make some money from trees they’re given permission to cut up and sell, but the process of cutting them and hauling them out will tear up the park’s parking lot. So, the money made will be spent to resurface it.
According to Haley, anyone who wishes to donate to the park would be helping out a lot. She says their receptionist is in their main building daily, even though it’s closed, and can answer any questions anyone has if they call.
In the meantime, Haley said she’s working more as a “land manager” than an educator as park officials try to get the park back open for the public.
“I just want to ask people to be patient. We know that they love Fox Island. We know that they want to get into the lake and cool off, enjoy our little beach,” Haley said. “We want them there as soon as we can possibly manage it safely, and that is our goal and our full intention.”