Safer trail opened from OM museum to Faulkner’s Rowan Oak

Published 12:16 am Sunday, March 2, 2008

A new walking trail through Bailey Woods between the University of Mississippi Museum and Rowan Oak has been opened after a $170,000 restoration.

The centerpiece of the project is a new steel bridge over the creekbed.

Rowan Oak, located near the Ole Miss campus, was bought by William Faulkner in 1930. He renovated it while beginning his writing career. During the 1930s, Faulkner wrote most of his novels and continued the renovations. He died in 1962.

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According to Faulkner lore, the Nobel Prize-winning writer played in the woods as a boy and later used the trail to walk back and forth from his home to campus.

The entire 30-acre area is owned by the university. The trail work coincided with restoration on Rowan Oak’s outbuildings. It included new paint and roofs, brick repair and replacement of rotten wood.

That project received $490,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with $70,000 dedicated to the trail. An additional $100,000 for the trail was provided by a Recreational Trails Program Grant through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

“I’ve been walking the trail for a number of years and watching it slowly erode,” said Museum Director Albert Sperath. “The really steep parts were slippery, so we had some areas that were 6- to 8-foot drop-offs that would be a little dangerous for youngsters.”

Workers terraced some steeper areas to control erosion and replaced the failing wooden bridge with a steel one.

A set of benches is to be added later alongside the new bridge, and signs marking the two trailheads are also in the works.

Walkers can use the trail, which is open from dawn to dusk. Bikes are not allowed, and the area is only open from dawn to dusk.

The 3,000-foot trail is about a 20-minute hike from the University Museum to Rowan Oak, Sperath said.