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Many people may visit Brown County to take in the fall colors, but that’s not the only place in Indiana that has beautiful autumn views to offer. Cliff Chapman, executive director of the Central Indiana Land Trust (or CILTI), joined us today to share some other areas you may enjoy.

  1. Burnett Woods in Avon. While Hoosiers often think of driving through hilly areas for leaf peeping, Burnett Woods offers a unique option because its colors are on display in a flat wooded area. A stroll through this incredibly diverse forest provides a close-up view of the many layers and strata of colors that come from a wide range of tree species. The added bonus? It’s an easy walk, so it’s good for young kids or those with some mobility issues. One tip: Expect to encounter some road construction on the way to Burnett Woods, but don’t let that deter you from this fall color display.
  1. Blossom Hollow in Johnson County. You’ll find a more traditional, hilly leaf-peeping adventure at Blossom Hollow, but you’ll enjoy being away from the crowd. Walking through Blossom Hollow lets you experience nature’s fall display up close, especially those created by Indiana’s native hardwood trees. You’ll also mike catch a glimpse of migratory birds and nesting songbirds. Round out your outing with a stop at nearby Apple Works for apples, you-pick pumpkins and fresh-squeezed cider.
  1. Meyer Nature Preserve in Morgan County. Even the parking lot at Morgan County’s Fred and Dorothy Meyer Nature Preserve is a colorful treat, as it provides an up-close view of a magnificent black gum tree (photo attached), which serves up arguably the prettiest autumn color found in Indiana. The brilliant red leaves are even brighter than those of the beloved red maple. Heading on into the woods you’ll see more gorgeous leaves, but don’t spend all of your time looking up: Enjoy the ground-level colors from flowering plants like the blue aster, and blue-stemmed and heart-leaved goldenrod. 
  1. Fort Harrison State Park. While it’s not a CILTI preserve, we’re happy to urge people to reduce their leaf-peeping carbon footprint by visiting nearby Fort Harrison State Park. With dedicated nature preserves within its boundaries, the park give visitors amazing topography to wander, where they can enjoy the wide spectrum of colors created by a diversity of trees. With a number of trails and paved pathways, the park makes fall colors accessible to anyone, whether you’re looking for a rugged hike or a casual stroll.

LAWRENCE, IN (WISH) – Two men accused of causing at least $50,000 in damage by carving out an illegal bike trail in a protected area of a state park were charged with trespassing and criminal mischief, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials said Wednesday.

Attorneys for Michael Hufhand and Jed Kidwell, the co-defendants in the case, could not be reached for comment.

The trail is approximately a mile and a half long and winds through the 100-acre Chinquapin Nature Preserve located in the northeastern corner of Fort Harrison State Park, authorities told 24-Hour News 8.

“They actually used chemicals [and] chemical spray to kill vegetation,” said Capt. Bill Browne, a DNR spokesman. “They used shovels. They used tools in order to create something they could ride bicycles through.”

The Chinquapin Nature Preserve is home to protected species, including the great blue heron, and acts as a nesting area for birds. There are no approved trails or roads open to the public in the area – as well as “No Trespassing” signs posted along the edge of the preserve – leading investigators to believe Hufhand and Kidwell were aware they were encroaching on a restricted area.

Park officials were “shocked” when the illegal trail was first discovered last May, according to Fort Harrison State Park property manager Brady Givens.

“People understand that this is something to be protected and taken care of,” he said. “We are disappointed that people are not respecting these resources.”

Members of the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association (HMBA) said they also found the illicit trail disappointing and surprising, considering the legitimate options their organization has worked with the DNR to create.

“[We are] currently involved in active trail-building projects,” explained HMBA president Paul Arlinghaus. “If you want to create your own bike trail, there are places where you can do it legally. If you want to bike through the state park, there are real trails where you can bike.”

Fort Harrison State Park visitors can even cycle through two of the park’s other nature preserves. Chinquapin, however, remains off limits and will not fully recover from the damage caused by the trail, officials said.

“We want to make sure [Hufhand and Kidwell] are brought to justice,” said Browne. “When somebody does something like this, we’re all a little shocked.”

Each defendant is charged with one count of criminal mischief, a level six felony in this case, and one count of trespassing, a class A misdemeanor, according to Marion County Superior Court records. If convicted, the felony charge is punishable by up to two and a half years in prison.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for February 28.