Wednesday, August 03, 2011

St. Ellen Park, O’Fallon, IL

I'm always looking for places to decompress during lunch.  Long time readers may remeber Silver Lake Park, which is one of the few things I miss from my days working in Highland, IL.  For the past 3 years, I've been working in Fairview Heights, IL, which is a bit of a concrete jungle.  But I have found a few interesting spots for my mid-day excursions.  I thought I'd take the opportunity to expound a little.  First off, St. Ellen Park, O'Fallon, IL

This park is located about 2.5 mile drive from our office, quite reasonable. It is 85 Acres, the site of the former St. Ellen Coal Mine, which operated between 1904 and 1960. The mine was owned by Perry Coal Company for most of that time, and by Peabody Coal Company during its final years.  The prominent feature of this park is a large mound, maybe 50 ft high. Presumably it is built on leftover material from the mining operations. Looking at Google Earth’s historical photos, it appears the site was derelict until at least 1988, but was restored by 1998. The Park amenities (walking paths, pavilions etc) have been there since at least 2003.

Walking Trails:
There are 2 distinct trails at St. Ellen Park: A trail which leads up the mound, with a small loop (I’ll call it the Center trail), and a trail which goes around the mound. (I’ll call it the Loop Trail) See photo:.

The paths are paved, wide and smooth. I have never been in the park when it was remotely crowded. In fact, it is rare to see another person on the paths. On the other hand, it can feel rather isolated, especially along the back of the loop trail. And there is NO SHADE.

Total trail length is just a hint over 1 mile (based on path feature in Google maps). It starts with a climb up the mound. This is about 0.40 miles up, with several switchbacks. Once you’ve reached the top, there is a loop, which is about 0.25 miles around. You return via the same path as climbing. This trail has the best elevation change of any trails I’ve found near the office. Not exactly a mountain, but still a nice change of pace, and decent views from the top. However, there is NO SHADE.

Loop Trail:
Total Trail length is 1.22 miles. This trail is basically a big square, circumnavigating the site. It is about 0.3 mile per side. Pretty much flat except for a slight rise and fall along the East side. There’s several distinct “zones” on the loop.  The west side runs between a lake and several small ponds.  The south side features rather dense foliage, the east and north sides are pretty open, with the mound rising from the edge of the trail. As with the Center Trail, there is no shade to speak of.

For more images from the park:

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