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Recovery Still In Progress At Fox Island County Park After Storm

Even though it happened more than two years ago, the violent derecho storm that struck our area has had a lingering effect on Fox Island County Park.
“I just knew (after seeing the damage) it was going to be at least two years before we’d be able to open again,” said Natalie Haley, Fox Island Park education manager.

The storm’s severe winds, clocked at Fort Wayne International Airport at up to 98 m.p.h., downed at least 3,000-4,000 trees in the park.

Young Naturalists Home School group take advantage of the beautiful weather in March to learn about and find salamander eggs as well as other pond life. Photo by Farrah Limmer.

With many of the park’s hiking trails blocked by downed trees, park officials had little choice but to shutter the park until they could clean up the chaos.

The devastation was so extensive, Haley said, even state officials were at a loss on how to proceed.

“Even the state foresters had no idea how to deal with it,” Haley said.

The storm hit the northern end of the park the hardest, she noted. Because of that, even when the park does reopen, the northern half will remain closed to park visitors.

In the past few weeks, tree experts have come into the park to pick up and remove the felled timber. Haley noted that much of the wood will be ground into mulch for use at a chicken farm in Ohio.

The violent storm blasted through Waynedale on June 13, 2022, leveling trees, knocking out power to much of the area for more than a week, and even killing one woman, who had a tree fall into her home’s living room.

Despite the wide-ranging damage at the park, Haley said the community’s support during these trying times has been tremendous, and sometimes emotional.

“We’ve had people come out to the park, see the damage and just start to cry,” she said. “I’ve had people come up and hug me, wanting to comfort me over what’s happened here.”

And those folks have shown their financial support, as well.

“We had a lot of people who wanted to renew their park passes or guest passes, even though they knew we wouldn’t be open for quite some time.”

One other positive from the disaster is that a Purdue Fort Wayne class studying the park has popped up, when one professor got the idea to study the park’s damage and track its recovery.

Fox Island is a 605-acre Allen County Park located at 7324 Yohne Road, and normally offers miles of hiking trails and a lake for fishing and swimming. Admission to the park is usually $2 per person.

Haley said she hopes the park will reopen again, with limited visitors, sometime this spring or summer, though no exact date has been chosen as yet.
She added that cleaning up and reopening the park really was the only option.

“We had two choices,” Haley said, “We could either never open the park back up for the next 40 years, or we could do the clean-up.”

Michael Morrissey

Michael Morrissey

Michael is a professional writer and journalist. He attended South Side High School and Northwestern University. He has written for newspapers in Michigan City, Indiana; Pekin, Illinois; and Bradenton, Florida. He also has written for and edited websites in Florida and San Francisco, California. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer