Beautiful Spring Park

J.F Gregory Park

J.F Gregory Park is a 335-acre multi-use recreational area that was once home to a rice plantation before being purchased by Henry Ford. The park, named for the foreman at Ford’s plantation, began development in 1998.

As well as the three-mile-long nature trail, the park also includes a Wetlands Education Center, the restored home of Henry Ford, a birding trail with a tower, a 10-acre lake, and a covered pavilion. There are areas where guests can fish, canoe, have picnics, and play sports, as well as regular fitness stations along the hiking trail.

The people of Richmond Hill are clearly proud of the park, as plenty of different groups came together to contribute to its creation and continued maintenance. The local historical society, garden club, city planners, and private donors alike collaborated to refurbish the Ford home, develop the landscaping, build the trails, pavilion, birdwatching tower, and wetlands center. There is also a bridge and a monument dedicated to veterans in the park.

Types of Birds; Waterfowl, wading birds, and songbirds
Best Birding Seasons; waterfowl – winter, wading birds – all, songbirds – all
Specialties: Prothonotary warbler, barred owl, and wood duck

Tips: Visit the park during spring and fall migrations to find warblers. The prothonotary warblers are most common between April and June.

No fees. Daylight hours.

Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Museum and Nature Center Trail

The Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Museum and Nature Center Trail is a 2.3 mile loop trail near Richmond Hill in Georgia. The trail includes a river and it gets a moderate amount of foot traffic, but is still suited for all skill levels. The trail is used primarily for hiking, walking, bird watching, and nature trips. The best time to use the trail is between March and October. The trail is very dog-friendly too.

The trail offers a
comfortable walk with beautiful scenery, shaded areas provided by trees, and
some historical remnants of the old barge locks. There are a number of
interpretive signs and benches where one can sit and enjoy the waterway. The
main trail is a little short, but taking some of the side trails makes the trip
longer and more fun. Just be sure to bring the $3 per person entry fee.

Magnolia Trail

The Magnolia Trail is a 0.9 mile loop near Richmond Hill. Like the Savannah-Ogeechee trail the Magnolia Trail gets a good amount of traffic, is suited for all skill levels, and features a beautiful river. There are lots of different activity options available on the trail, which is open all-year-round. Dogs can use the trail but they have to be kept on their leash.

Green Creek Trail

The Green Creek Trail is a 1.7 out and back trail near Richmond Hill that offers beautiful scenic views and is accessible for all skill levels. The trail is mostly used for hiking and walking, as well as bird watching and nature trips. The best time to visit the trail is between April and September.

The Green Creek
Interpretative Trail is built upon dirt mounds left alongside the Greek in the
early 1930s. Henry Ford’s men dug the creek to improve the drainage of the land
to better facilitate farming and forestry.

Back in the 1920s the
area was home to a swamp and woods. The economic loss following the civil war
devastated the people. Henry Ford was drawn to the area because of the natural
landscape and the variety of birds and other wildlife. He helped to reestablish
the economic framework of Bryan County. Ford designed and built a canal system
that drained the water from the land to make it more feasible for farming.

The State Legislature
established the Georgia Community Greenspace Program in July, 2000. The goal of
the program was to place 20% of the undeveloped land in a city or the open
country under permanent protection. Bryan County and Pembroke joined the
program and aimed to conserve around 30,000 acres of natural open land through
it. With the money offered by the program, the county purchased a 25- acre
tract of wetlands adjacent to the parcel of land designated the  Henderson Memorial Park between Highway 144
and Spur 144. With the federal money from the NOAA, the county was able to
complete the first phase of the Green Creek Interpretive Trail. The trail
offers access to the public for viewing the permanently conserved wetland area.

The Green Creek Interpretive Trail was designed to bring the wetlands, one of nature’s habitats, to the public view. It was to show off the significance of the ecosystem and teach people how important the wetlands were. Wetlands, also known as the “nurseries of life”, are transitional areas where the flow of water, the cycling of nutrients, and the energy from the sun come together to create a unique metropolis of life. Wetlands are known for being the habitat of water lilies, frogs, snakes, turtles, alligators, and crocodiles. They also provide mammals, fish, and waterfowl with a home. Migrating birds will rest and feed in wetlands as they cross the continent. They may also use them as nesting grounds when they aren’t migrating. This means that wetland loss has a dramatic impact on a wide number of species. Habitat degradation has been a leading cause of extinction since the 1970s.

The Interpretive Walking Trail, which is considered to be part of the Coastal Georgia Greenway Trail, connects with trails across Highway 144. Plans are in place for it to connect with a trail in Henderson Memorial Park via a footbridge, and for it to connect with one along Spur 144 leading to Fort McAllister. The first phase of the Green Creek Trail will include tree-labels that help visitors identify the different species of tree native to the area, as well as kiosk that has useful information about the wetlands, animals, vegetation, and preservation efforts. There are plans to plant and identify rare and endangered species too. Bird lovers will find descriptions of different bird species native to the area across the walkway and descriptions of the ecosystems and how it all works together in nature. This is all part of an ongoing project that will see the information available updated periodically.

The Guyton Rails to Trails

If you don’t mind driving a bit beyond Richmond Hill, then the Guyton Rails to Trails is worth checking out. The trail runs through the heart of Guyton, Georgia, and connects most of the numeric grid of streets in the town with public amenities such as the Guyton Elementary School and City Hall. The trail, which is actually made up of two parallel 6-foot-wide asphalt paths, crosses 0.75 miles from the red caboose just north of 3rd Avenue to the concrete Pilgrim Park walking trail on Simmons Street. Situated at the median of Central Boulevard/SR-17 for most of its route, The Guyton Rails to Trails also goes past the front doors of Guyton’s new post office.

The landscaped trail
is located along a portion of the abandoned corridor of the Georgia Railway,
which closed down and stopped operations in the 1960s. The trail has proven
popular with people living in the small town since it was dedicated back in
2012. Residents of Guyton use the trail for transportation and recreation, as
well as using it as the center for their annual “Sale Along the Trail” event.