New hiking trails open at the Gardner Center in Mercer County – Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Some sun this morning with increasing clouds this afternoon. High 79F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph..
Partly cloudy this evening with more clouds for overnight. Low 63F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: September 3, 2022 @ 3:25 am

PRINCETON — Hikers seeking new outdoor venues to explore can now find them at the property around an historic forestry center that now provides office and meeting space for Mercer County.
The Mercer County Gardner Center off Interstate 77 at Exit 14 now has six easy to moderate hiking trails – about 6,000 feet – around its facility.
Formerly a U.S. Forestry Service laboratory, the Gardner Center is near a wooded area that was often used as part of the laboratory’s work. Naturalist and conservator Jeffery Palmer, who now maintains the trails, said that after the laboratory was created, technicians and scientists went out and created the trail system. The trails, which are lined with stones, gave them access to trees that they would use for obtaining samples.
“When I was working here, I was with the Forest Service,” Palmer recalled. “I used to help them out.”
The Forest Service eventually shut down the laboratory in 2016, and the Mercer County Commission acquired it in 2020. Reopening the trails was among the commission’s plans for the center.
“When they needed someone to clear the trails and maintain them, they hired me in July 2021,” Palmer said. “Back them the trails were difficult to pass through and overgrown with a lot of weeds, so I cleared all the trails and now they’re fully passable. The difficulty of the trails ranges from easy to moderate. They’re really nice and they are totally passable. It’s a great addition to our hiking experiences in the county.”
The Gardner Center Trails are open year-round and are only closed for major holidays. The trail hours are 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Visit The Gardner Center’s website at for more information.
— Contact Greg Jordan at
Contact Greg Jordan at
Senior Reporter
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Saturday, 2 p.m., at Mercer Funeral Home in Bluefield. Burial will follow at Maple Hill Cemetery in Bluefield, Va.

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