[imgcontainer] [img:bluebells.jpg] [source]Photo by Frank Kilgore [/source] [/imgcontainer]

With wildflower season spreading northward along the Appalachian Mountains, the city of St. Paul, Virginia, has reopened the Bluebell Island Trail just in time for hikers to enjoy the blooms that give the trail its name.

The foot path, which runs along the Clinch River in southwest Virginia, was flooded out earlier this year. The Clinch piled tons of uprooted trees and trash on the seven-acre wildlife sanctuary. The debris shut down the most popular segment of the town’s trail system – which contains more than 100 miles. (That’s a tenth of a mile per each resident of St. Paul, population 1,000).

Bluebell Island is home to bluebell flowers, which bloom each April. The park also contains giant sycamore trees, box elder and a small stand of cane, a native bamboo that once thrived along Appalachian river valleys before being nearly eradicated by domestic grazing and burning.

[imgcontainer] [img:Screen+Shot+2015-04-14+at+12.34.48+PM.png] This map of the Bluebell Island Trail shows 15 milestones. [/imgcontainer]

Community cooperation and volunteer inmates provided the planning and labor that led to the park’s cleanup and reopening. Johnnie Hicks led the town’s work crew, with help from Wise County Chief Deputy Grant Kilgore. The project also had help from numerous non-violent volunteer inmates.

The trail is back to its full beauty, just in time for the current wildflower season. “Spring is showing its glory and hikers and bikers, young and old, are hitting the trails of St Paul in droves,

according to Frank Kilgore, who sent us this photo of the park and a description of the project.

“Poets and outdoor writers come and go but there is nothing as beautiful as [s]pringtime in Appalachia to sooth the soul,” Frank said.

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