A new hiking trail on the Lower Howard’s Creek Nature and Heritage Preserve will open to the public Friday afternoon.
The trek is almost a 3-mile round trip.
The John Holder Trail, named after Col. John Holder, one of the historic defenders of Fort Boonesborough, follows parts of the Athens-Boonesboro Turnpike, the Salt Springs Trace and Holder’s Road.
It features 10 historical markers, including the foundation of the Robert Martin House, a two-room log house built in 1856; Downey Graveyard, with burials from the early 20th century to present; and the Thompson Ridge residential area with homestead sites dating back to the 1800s.
It will be open to foot traffic only from sunrise to sunset year-round. The trail entrance is next to Hall’s on the River, 1225 Athens-Boonesboro Road, and hikers will be able to park there, said Clare Sipple, manager of Lower Howard’s Creek.
Hiking the trail is free.
“It’s a pretty big deal for us because it’s always been closed to the public,” Sipple said.
The trail area has been closed to protect the endangered plants, Sipple said, but people have been hiking in the area for years anyway.
She appeared before the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Board and the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission and asked for permission to change the preserve plan to include the area for hiking.
One condition to allow hiking, she said, required the removal of all exotic invasive plants from the trail.
The preserve received a grant from Bluegrass PRIDE, an environmental non-profit group, to remove those plants.
The preserve also received a grant from the Kentucky River Authority to print trail brochures, and officials have been working with volunteers to get the trail cleared.
“It gives people this really nice old trail that follows the Old Athens-Boonesboro Road,” Sipple said.
The Winchester-Clark County Tourism Commission has had good luck keeping the Civil War Fort at Boonesboro open year-round, “so we thought this would be a good way that we could promote both sites,” she said.
At the trail, there will be a box with fort and trail maps, and brochures.
There will be a trail opening hike open to the public Friday at 2 p.m. Those interested can meet Sipple at the Hall’s on the River parking lot.