More Hikers Getting Lost in Shawnee Forest

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By Matthew Searcy

POPE COUNTY -- Pope County officials are warning hikers to take extra precautions. The sheriff's department says they've seen a growing number of cases involving missing hikers.   

"When you get down in those woods, you aren't going to see much signage," said Pope County Sheriff Jerry Suits. 
 
He estimates there have been at least a dozen lost hikers this summer. 
 
"We probably have this story yearly, but I think it's gotten worse this year," explained Suits.
 
Many of the cases are coming from the Bell Smith Springs and Burden Falls area. The area is filled with trails that Suits believes needs more maps and signs.  
 
"Lost hikers keep telling me they don't see the signs," said Suits. "That's something we are communicating to the forest service." 
 
"If we wouldn't have stopped at the welcome center we would have had no maps out here to work off of," said area hiker Kevin Meyer. "It would have been a problem." 
 
Suits says he will continue to be in contact with the U.S. Forest Service to see what can be done.
 
"I really think that the people that go out there need to know where they are going and be prepared," said Suits.  
 
A spokesperson for the Shawnee National Forest says the department is aware of the issue and is looking into what can be done about improving the trails.
 
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