These days, the entertainment at Fox Island County Park is about more than hiking, swimming and enjoying nature.
You can have some prehistoric fun there, too.
As it has for the past several years, the park is also offering its Fossil Pile, allowing visitors the chance to dig through mounds of sediment in search of fossils and other historic finds.
The pile comes from heaping mounds of sediment donated by Hanson Aggregates, which dumps the material there on a regular basis, according to Natalie Haley, Fox Island Environmental Educator.
While the park has been offering the pile “for decades,” according to Haley, it remains one of its most popular attractions.
The Fossil Pile is located straight back from the main entrance, just north of the main parking lot, Haley said.
The pile usually is turned over each spring, after the winter’s snow melts and the ground begins to thaw. The county uses everything from individual workers with pick axes, to tractors to refresh the pile, Haley said.
Hanson adds to the pile whenever they’ve got spare sediment, Haley said, although the park also keeps spare sediment material in a Quonset hut on Yohne Road, a facility that used to be a barn storing road salt.
According to Haley, most of the fossil finds at Fox Island are of the sea-creature variety, such as prehistoric brachiopods. The site entertains everyone from individual hikers and explorers, to tour groups looking for fossil finds.
Fox Island, located at 7324 Yohne Road, officially became an Allen County public park in 1984. The 605-acre property offers 270 acres of dedicated State Nature Preserve, which protects several areas of unique plants, animals and geographic features.
The park’s habitats include marshes, seasonal ponds, wooded sand dunes, wetland forests, old fields, and restored prairies. The site also includes the largest contiguous forest in Allen County, as well as a glacial sand dune.
Hikers can enjoy seven miles of trails, with more than six miles of those open during the winter months for cross-country skiing (as long as there’s a least four inches of snow on the ground).
Activities on tap at the park for this summer include two weeks of Summer Camp for kids 6-12. The first runs from June 17 to 21, and is themed an Outdoor Adventure Camp, teaching youngsters how to “handle themselves outdoors,” according to Haley.
The second session goes from June 24 to 28, and is the park’s Survivor Camp, instructing youth how to live off the land by building fires, and finding food, water and other sustenance.
The park also plays host to other camps (such as from the YMCA) that are just looking for somewhere to have some outdoor fun, Haley said.
Swimming in Lake Bowman remains one of Fox Island’s most popular attractions. Fox Island also offers beach volleyball on the lake, as well as cookouts and canoeing, she noted.
Some of the county park counselors also spend their time teaching kids who’ve never had the chance to learn how to fish. “It’s hard to imagine,” Haley said, “but some kids never get the chance to fish growing up.”
As for the Fossil Pile, Haley said its popularity is simple – people like finding “treasure.”
“People love it, they really love it,” Haley said. “They like finding something. And it’s a little like discovering buried treasure, since it’s something they dig up and find on their own.”