Nestled in the middle of the city of Radcliff, along the border of Fort Knox, sits Saunders Springs Nature Preserve with its numerous trails, picnic areas and natural sites on a 26-acre preserve owned by the city and overseen by the Forestry and Conservation Board.
The area also has a 73-acre tract called the Annex that is leased from Fort Knox.
Forestry board member and Saunders Springs volunteer Adrian Bambini said about 11 new projects have been completed or are in the works at the nature preserve.
The projects include two pavilions, a native plants garden, an informational kiosk at the lower level, five picnic tables along a paved access road, eight picnic tables in the annex area and three picnic tables added along the Hidden Trail. Construction also began on Stith Cabin, a wooden skills feature was added to the Hellfire Trail, the Bambi trail was expanded, the Comeback Trail was added and the parking lot is being expanded across from the entrance overlook.
All of the projects have included more than 4,000 hours of volunteer work so far this year, Bambini said.
“Nobody really works here,” he said, jokingly.
The Radcliff Parks and Recreation department helps with lawn care, restrooms and other issues, but most of what is done with trail maintenance is performed by volunteers, said Bambini, who volunteers numerous hours each week.
One of the newest features is a yet-to-be-named mountain bike trail that’s getting statewide attention.
“It’s the longest elevated wooden downhill mountain biking slalom course in Kentucky,” Bambini said.
It’s a half-mile downhill course that starts 120 feet above the bottom part of the course. Riders come down the hill and then onto a wooden skills course that drops off at the end, he said.
It was built by several area organizations. Representatives from the International Mountain Biking Association designed the course, volunteers from the 19th Engineer Battalion on Fort Knox built the course for a community project and Bambini and his late wife, Barbara, donated $4,000 for the lumber.
After it was finished, it became a tourist attraction and was featured at a trail summit in Kentucky, he said.
Last December, the Bambinis donated $7,000 to the city to fund a new pavilion at Saunders Springs. Barbara died in January and through condolence donations, another $4,000 of funding came in for the pavilion, which left enough money to build two pavilions, Bambini said.
One of the pavilions was built as a picnic shelter in one of the scouting areas, he said. The second is the Garden Pavilion near the native plant garden, which is important to Bambini because his wife was a gardener.
Standing by a waterfall near the pavilion, Bambini said, “No place else in Radcliff has that.”
Across the road from the pavilion is the entrance to the Comeback Trail. It is a short trail, only 200 feet long, that goes over and along the stream. After reaching the end, walkers turn around and come back.
“But the view coming back is a view of the stream you don’t normally get,” he said.
The trail also has about 40 signs about the plants found along the way.
This week, work started on the Stith Cabin, a project promoted by Radcliff Mayor Mike Weaver.
Bambini said the cabin was the family homestead for the Stith family in the Rineyville area. It was built around 1873 and was disassembled and stored in the 1990s, he said.
The cabin was donated to Saunders Springs to be located near the waterfalls, he said.
This cabin, unlike the others in the park, will have electricity. It’s a little bigger than an average cabin and it will have exhibits and open for visitors, he said.
Bambini is putting together exhibits on animals, plants and history of Saunders Springs. He hopes it will be finished by Christmas. It’s another one of the many aspects of Saunders Springs the Bambinis have funded through the years.
When asked why he devotes so much time, money and energy to Saunders Springs, Bambini’s answer was simple.
“It’s kind of pretty, it’s quiet and I happen to like the plants and outdoors,” he said.
In school, he once took a test that said he’d be fit for a job that was outdoors, scientific and social.
“And that’s exactly what this is. This is me,” he said, adding one of his favorite things is talking to school children who visit the park.
Along with more parking areas, bridge work, signage and more Eagle Scout projects, of which the park has 70, there are other improvements planned to the park and trails to add to what already has been done this year, Bambini said.