WARREN COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — For the first time ever, a popular nature preserve in Warren County is closing indefinitely. Fall Creek Gorge was forced to close after facing destruction from increased visitors.
"The trash was just excessive, I couldn't carry it all anymore, we had all kinds of new trails, some were dangerous and just on and on and on," said Patrick Tarvin, Nature Conservancy Volunteer
Tarvin often spends time cleaning and caring for Fall Creek Gorge. As the foot traffic has increased this summer, this is how the gorge has been looking lately.
"I let the conservancy know, they came down immediately, they took into consideration what I said then they assessed it themselves. They acted quickly and swiftly and they shut this down that night," said Tarvin.
Fall Creek Gorge has now been closed for nearly a month. And due to the damage, it's unclear when it will reopen.
"This is the first time we've ever had to close it, unfortunately, and I think what it really points out is the need and the interest that people have for nature right now," said Matt Williams, Director of Conservation in Indiana.
Williams believes the COVID-19 pandemic could have played a role in more people wanting to get out and enjoy the preserve.
"People are looking for opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature, which is great, it's just kind of case that this preserve is being over-loved at this time," said Willaims.
In addition to the trash, illegal parking also became a problem. But one thing that really worried Williams was the destruction of some of the plants unique to the preserve.
"We've had people leaving the trail, getting off trail and trampling some of the native plants there, there are a number of really nice native plant communities on the site and unfortunately, we've had a lot of those areas trampled," said Williams. "We wanted to stop it now and give it time to recover and then be able to reopen."
Williams said this closure has revealed a need in Indiana. He said Indiana consistently ranks as one of the lowest states in terms of public lands available.
"It's great that we have some of these areas across Indiana, but as a whole, I think that we really have a lack of public land where people can get outdoors and enjoy different kinds of recreation," said Willaims. "I hope that this pushes us to think about, how can we set aside more dollars, more funding to protect more land."
Williams encourages people to responsibly utilize other nature preserves in the area while the Fall Creek Gorge is closed. You can find those other nature preserves here.