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Fox Island County Park Reopens After 2 Years

More than two years after a violent storm lashed Fox Island County Park, felling thousands of trees and blocking most of its hiking trails, the park is finally ready to greet visitors again.

Working for months to clean downed trees and clear trails, park officials are allowing visitors back into most sections of the park, save the northern areas that were most heavily hit by the strong storm winds.

Fox Island was officially opened by the Allen County Commissioners, Parks Superintendent, Jeff Baxter, Allen County Park Staff, and volunteers who worked diligently over the past two years to get ready to host visitors again. The ceremony also included Park Board President Mitch Sheppard, and Board Members, Matthew Booker & Matt Henry.

Park officials hosted a Media Day on Friday, June 14 to allow members of the press to tour the park, and then had another special day for Allen County Park commissioners on Monday, June 17, according to Allen County Superintendent of Parks, Jeff Baxter.

General visitors were admitted beginning on Monday, June 17 at 9 am.

Baxter said allowing the media and county leaders to see the damage – and just how far the park has come in the last few months – is crucial to its recovery, and to allow everyone to understand how the park has changed in the interim.

“I think people think, ‘Oh, we’ll go back, and the trees will be like they were before’ But I don’t think it will ever be back to the way it was before June 13, 2022,” Baxter shared sadly.

On the day of the storm, violent derecho winds blasted through Waynedale, 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.

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

“I don’t know what I did to Mother Nature,” Baxter joked, “but she sure got us good!”

The damage was much more harsh than originally thought.

“At first, we thought we lost about 1,500 trees,” Baxter said, “But since we’ve done the cleanup, we realized it was closer to 3,000 trees.”

Baxter said most of the park’s hiking trails will be available to walk, although much of the northern end of the park will remain off-limits, as the damage there was much more extensive. And the park’s popular lake, a busy respite spot for swimmers and fisherman, will be open as well.

Hours at the park, located at 7324 Yohne Road, will remain as they have for years. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the park is open from 9am to 9pm; after Labor Day, the hours shift to 9am to 7pm.

One change- Admission to the park will be going up for the first time in decades, jumping from $2 to $3. Baxter said, this decision was made by county commissioners. “It’s been $2 for probably 35 years,” he said.

One warning Baxter offered- those planning to come visit the park may want to wait a couple of weeks until the early crowds thin out.

“I’d give it a week or so, because there will be a lot of people there,” Baxter advised.

Baxter said despite everything that he and his park staff have gone through, he still sympathizes with Waynedale’s storm troubles.

“I don’t want to sit here and whine about our troubles, when I know how hard Waynedale got hit. We were very lucky. I mean, despite all the trees we lost, we didn’t have any buildings damaged, and nobody was killed.”

Still, even with all the obstacles Mother Natures has thrown his way, Baxter remains optimistic about the future of Fox Island.

“I hated how it looked this winter,” Baxter said, “But we’ll be back.”

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