The Hitchcock Woods, closed since the ice storm on February 12 and 13, is set to reopen to walkers and riders on Friday, February 28. Like most of downtown Aiken, the Hitchcock Woods sustained heavy damage from downed trees and broken branches. In fact, people living near the woods say there were so many trees and branches falling there during the height of the storm, it sounded like gunfire in a war zone.
After the storm, the Hitchcock Woods Foundation closed the trails, many of which were impassable. They then set to work clearing, with a crew that included Bennett Tucker, Eric Grande and Mike McCarthy. The Aiken Hounds, which normally hunts in the woods two times per week, went out with other hunts, including Whiskey Road Foxhounds in Aiken and Middleton Place Hounds in Charleston.
Although many of the main trails will be opened on Friday, it will be days and perhaps weeks before all of the trails are cleared for walking and riding. Users of the woods are urged to heed any “trail closed” or “restricted” signs for their own safety. The main trails will be restored first, then the secondary trails and finally the tertiary trails. The foundation is making a particular effort to clean up areas leading to and around the horse show ring ahead of the Aiken Horse Show in the Woods, scheduled for April 4-6.
The Aiken Hounds will be back hunting in the woods again on Saturday, and will plan their route through areas where there was less damage from downed trees. The hunt has been shut out of its home for over two weeks, and riders are looking forward to returning to familiar trails. “It’s earlier than anyone expected,” says Linda Knox McLean, the Master of Foxhounds of the Aiken Hounds.
The cost of the cleanup will far exceed the money that the HWF budgets each year for tree work. The annual Celebration of Eventing, held Monday March 3 at The Willcox, will be a fundraiser to help defray the cost of the cleanup. Donations are also much appreciated. Click here to donate to the Hitchcock Woods Foundation.