12/20/2022 from the Superintendent of Allen County Parks…
STILL CLOSED but we are making some progress! There is STILL A LOT of work to be done and at this point we still aren’t sure when we can re-open. There are some volunteer opportunities in the next couple of months for invasive species removal at the park. See the Programs page for the calendar and dates.
Below is a story by one of our volunteers from the Fox Island Alliance. It has been on our Programs Page for months but we think its better served here. Thank you Clara for a very nice article.
The Destruction of Fox Island County Park, June 13, 2022
By Clara Conroy, Fox Island Alliance
The morning of Monday, June 13, was quite nice at Fox Island. The first day of kid’s Nature Camp was off to a good start and campers were enjoying sunny skies and not-too-hot temperatures. As the day progressed and the temperature rose, park visitors enjoyed hiking in the shady woods and spending time at the beach. A typical lovely day at the park.
And then came the evening. And the storms.
The lightning show to the north started around sundown and soon hit Fort Wayne. Long-lived, straight-line wind storms led to a significant swath of wind damage. Record wind gusts of 98 mph were recorded at the nearby Fort Wayne International Airport and led to significant damage in the area. This was the strongest wind gust ever recorded at the airport.
The big old trees in the sandy dune soil never stood a chance against this derecho.
On the following morning of June 14, park staff had the daunting task of assessing the damage. Due to trees down on the park roads, no vehicles could get in or out of the front gate. The power to the park was out, which also meant no running water. Fox Island County Park was declared closed until further notice.
Maintenance workers went to work clearing the entry road and center parking lot. Trees were blown over around the nature center and into the pollinator garden in front, but luckily the new roof and building were spared. On the lake road there were over 64 trees down just to the parking lot. Uprooted trees pulled up portions of pavement, damaging the road itself.
In the following days, park staff went to check how much more damage was done. Heading west found trees down on the main trail, taking out trail markers with them, but most heartbreaking was discovering the loss of the Old Black Oak, an icon in the park.
Continuing on found that the devastation was worse than could ever be imagined. They found that there were 400 plus trees toppled from the lake road, down around Bowman Lake and back on the west end of the upper dune trail. It took them five hours to climb through it all. The frog pond is full of trees and every intersection and most of the trail is under trees on the upper dune. Sections of the dune trail are lost due to downed trees pulling up the ground and creating potholes. Much of the upper dune trail that was all under tree canopy is now in full sun. Some trees were blown completely over while others were snapped off halfway up the trunk.
Bob Dispenza, Park and Education Manager at Metea, had this to say about the damage, “Devastation is too light a word for what happened to Fox Island County Park Monday night. Large areas are simply destroyed. Areas that used to be covered by tree canopy are now open to the sky. We will never see Fox Island like it was Monday morning again in our lifetime, maybe ever.
One of the main reasons that Fox Island was a state nature preserve was because of the outstanding black oak savannah on the old sand dunes. Many places, including our experimental prescribed burn area, lost 100% of their large black oak trees.
Upper Dune Trail west had about 30 meters of open trail. All the rest was covered by fallen trees. So heavily covered it took two hours to walk the half mile and I lost the trail completely several times. Some trails might simply have to be abandoned, they are so heavily impacted.”
At the time of this writing, it is estimated that there are at least 1000 trees down on the trails alone.
Fox Island is changed for my lifetime at least. We will not be open until we have made it safe. We are losing thousands in revenue this summer, but we must keep park visitors safe. If you want to donate, please send a check made out to Allen County Park. Mail it to Fox Island County Park, (ATTN: Park Manager, Natalie Haley), 7324 Yohne Rd., Fort Wayne, IN. 46809. This may help alleviate the loss in revenue. Donations made in this way are also tax deductible.
08/04/2022 from the Superintendent of Allen County Parks…
After what seems like an eternity, and I know all are anxious for the park to be re-opened we have accomplished the following items:
- THANKS TO THE MANY THAT HAVE DONATED TOWARDS THE DAMAGE – If you haven’t received a thank you letter please bear with us, THEY ARE COMING. We will use these funds for removal and restoration of the devastated areas.
- Damage assessment – thanks to the staff’s hard work we have counted 1,150 trees down in the park on trails and roads. The Drone Taskforce flew drones over affected areas and we got a much better assessment of the devastation that occurred. It is quite a mess out there! Our sincere appreciation to this group for their assistance!!
- The IDNR Division of Nature Preserves visited the park (as 305 acres are State Nature Preserve and come with restrictions) and based on their assessments of the situation they are allowing removal of many of the downed trees. There are simply too many trees to proceed as we normally would with just clearing the trails and leaving the trees to go back to the earth naturally. There would be no way that saplings could grow and the invasive species would take over.
- In house crews have cleared and cleaned up some areas of the park but based on the damage assessments this was simply too large a project to handle with our staff and volunteers.
- Based on this we are working with Graber Lumber to remove the many logs but this will take at least two months!
- When they are finished we will begin the task of dragging and chipping of the canopies of the trees which will be a HUGE undertaking in itself! This will also be an opportunity for volunteers to help!! BUT THIS WON’T BE FOR MONTHS.
- And once that is accomplished we will start on restoring trails and roadways to a safe state. We have root balls that are 20 feet tall which means there is a HUGE hole next to trail!
So for now the park will remain closed! The safety of the public is our utmost concern.
06/22/2022 from the Superintendent of Allen County Parks…
Fox Island County Park sustained heavy storm damage the night of June 13, 2022. Luckily our buildings were spared any damage but the same cannot be said for the forest, trails and roads within the park. We are estimating that between 800 to 1000 trees were brought down by the storm. We were not the only ones affected by these storms and our thoughts and prayers are with those who sustained damages to their properties in the Waynedale area and southwest Fort Wayne and Allen County.
We are currently closed and will be for the foreseeable future as we attempt to assess damage, formulate plans for removal of trees and debris from the site, and actually accomplish those plans. It is simply not safe within the park at this time to allow the public ANY kind of entry into the park. This will be a long process as we can’t open just certain areas of the park and expect that people will not wander off into dangerous situations.
Many of you have called and ask to volunteer and help with the clean up. We really appreciate your offers and at some point in the future we will certainly call out for help. For liability reasons and until we get some of the major damage cleaned up it is not safe for volunteers to assist us.
Others have asked about donating funds to assist with our efforts. We will gladly accept donations and these funds will be deposited in our Gift Fund to offset our costs, as salaries for employees are the only tax supported funds we receive annually. All operating expenses are generated from entry fees, programs and rentals of which this park for the time being is not generating. If you are inclined to do so make checks payable to and send to:
Allen County Parks
Attn: Storm Damage
7324 Yohne Road
Fort Wayne IN 46809
Again, thank you!
Below are some pictures of just some of the damage and a cute one of a Santa Claus we found in the lake parking lot the next morning. Hopefully we will be back open by the time the real Santa comes back this way!