Spring on the York College campus

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Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Footprints

March 26, 2020
Jamie Kinsley while hiking
Jamie Kinsley '12 while hiking in P. Joseph Raab Park. Photo credit: Jamie Kinsley

Written by Jamie Kinsley '12

About the Author: After attaining her bachelor's degree from York College in 2012, Jamie Kinsley has taught history and character development to ninth graders at Milton Hershey School. Focusing on environmentalism and food studies, she researches topics for her Ph.D. from Penn State University including agriculture, folklore, sustainability, and the outdoors. She also writes a local history blog for York Daily Record called "Wandering in York County" where she builds community through storytelling. 

One of the many things that drew me to York College was the campus. Running right beside campus rests the Heritage Rail Trail — something still open even during this pandemic. We’re all feeling the isolating effects of the quarantine, so here are my recommendations to get outside for some fresh air. 

Rocky Ridge in Springettsbury Township

Known as York County’s first county park, Rocky Ridge offers 750 acres of excellent trails. They range from beginner walking paths to dive-bomb mountain bike trails. Rocks jut out of the hillside, serving as a fun place to let the kids climb and exert some of that energy. 

Bring the cleaning wipes! You’ll find obstacles and workout equipment but you’ll want to make sure they’re clean before you start hanging from the pull-up bars. This is a great place to meet a friend or two, enjoying the therapeutic and spectacular views.

Nixon Park near Jacobus

Donated in 1968 by the Bob Hoffman family, Nixon Park earned its name from the newly elected President, Richard Nixon. Unlike Rocky Ridge, this park has beautiful meadows and aquatic habitats on 213 acres. Bridges cross streams and the paths wind up and down the hillsides. I always feel like I’m on an adventure, exploring uncharted territories like Frodo Baggins or Alice in Wonderland. 

P. Joseph Raab Park near Seven Valleys

Even though it’s a relatively small park, history lovers will enjoy this site. I recently visited P. Joseph Raab Park with some friends and I was amazed by all the neat finds. Around almost every corner are iron ore mine sites, caves, pastures, and cliffs. From 1854 to 1888, the York Iron Co. mined the 72 acres. If you look carefully, you’ll even find the bat cave! 

Don’t forget about Gettysburg! 

Only an hour away, the battlefields offer a respite accessible via vehicle. If you’re nervous about being in public, even in a county park, Gettysburg includes 24 miles of self-guided tours in your car. You’ll see 16 different stops including the wheatfield where 4,000 casualties met their demise, Pickett’s Charge, the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, and the National Cemetery. The museum and visitor’s center might be closed, but you can download their podcast tours here. 

If you visit one of the county parks, make sure to follow the rules:

  • Some parks don’t allow dogs or bikes - check the rules before you set out.
  • Share the trail. Move over for horses and bikes.
  • If you see trash, pick it up. Leave the park cleaner than when you found it. 
  • Respect boundary lines. Don’t go outside the park perimeters. You'll trespass on other people’s property. Not cool. 
  • Keep your voice to a minimum level. Some people are there to observe nature, not scare it away. 

Getting away from the blue light of the screens and into the healing sunlight will be good for your physical and emotional health. Speaking of which, now that I’m finished with this blog article, I’m going to do just that. Heritage Rail Trail, here I come!