Frequently Asked Questions
- Who owns the Hitchcock Woods?
- Who may use the Hitchcock Woods?
- Does the Hitchcock Woods Foundation offer tours?
- Where can I get a map of the Hitchcock Woods?
- Does the Hitchcock Woods receive income through taxes?
- Does Hitchcock Woods Foundation have an endowment?
- Why is biking not permitted in Hitchcock Woods?
- Why are horses not permitted in the show ring?
- What is the Aiken Hounds drag hunt?
- Why do you burn Hitchcock Woods?
- What should I do if I see a coyote?
- What is the status of the erosion issue?
The Hitchcock Woods Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, owns the Woods. The land known as the Hitchcock Woods once was part of a much larger tract of land, nearly 8,000 acres, owned by Thomas Hitchcock, Sr., and William C. Whitney. In 1939, Thomas “Tommy” Hitchcock, Jr., and his sister, Helen Hitchcock Clark, established The Hitchcock Foundation (the original name) as a charitable corporation. The first gift received by the corporation was 1,191 acres of woodland from Thomas Hitchcock, Sr. The Foundation acquired additional parcels over the years through donations and purchases, bringing the total today to about 2,100 acres.
The Hitchcock Woods is open to the general public for passive use from dawn to dusk every day. Recreational enjoyment of Hitchcock Woods is dedicated to historic and traditional uses on horseback or on foot. Frequent users of the Woods include equestrians, carriage drivers, hikers, dog walkers, and runners. Schools and other groups may schedule and organize self-guided field trips for educational value.
Enjoying the Hitchcock Woods is primarily a self-guided experience, but the Foundation provides maps for ease of use. There are no regularly scheduled tours. Various external organizations occasionally conduct group visits.
Maps of the Hitchcock Woods are provided in map boxes at the seven main entrances to the Woods. Trail signs mark the major trails throughout the Woods. With over 65 miles of trails in the Woods, it is a good idea to carry a map until you know your way around. To view the map online, click here.
The Foundation does not receive operating support through municipal, county, state, or federal taxes. The Foundation relies exclusively on the financial support of donors for its capital and operating expenses.
Hitchcock Woods Foundation formally established both an Endowment Fund and an Operating Reserve Fund in 2010. The first major gift for the endowment was received in 2011. Income from the Endowment Fund represents just 1.6% of the current year’s annual operating budget. Gifts to the endowment are welcome at any time.
Part of the mission of the Foundation is to uphold “historic and traditional equestrian and pedestrian uses” of the Woods. While equestrians and pedestrians may comfortably share the Woods, precautions are necessary to keep everyone safe. Horses have limited vision and can be easily startled by the speed at which a bicycler may appear, or by the unfamiliar bicycle itself. It is for the safety of all that biking is not a part of the Woods experience.
Riders must refrain from riding in the show ring in order to preserve the footing for the Aiken Horse Show. This also ensures a more even competition, so that no individual rider or horse may become accustomed to performing in the ring.
Drag hunting is a sport in which foxhounds follow a scent that has been “dragged” over a predetermined route. The scent (usually that of a fox) is laid in advance, the hounds are “cast” on the line, and the riders follow the hounds along the route. Live quarry are not intentionally hunted on a drag hunt.
In recent decades, coyotes have spread throughout the eastern United States. They now occupy every county in South Carolina. Coyotes are primarily nocturnal, but they sometimes can be seen during daylight hours. They are very shy and, unless fed, rarely make themselves known. Residents wanting to avoid coyotes should remove food sources such as trash, fruit, and pet food from the outdoor environment of their home. Small pets should be kept inside at night.
When walking in Hitchcock Woods, keeping your dog on a leash is the best way to help avoid an encounter with a coyote. If you are approached by a coyote, attempt to frighten it, so that it fears you and leaves. You can do this by shouting, waving your arms, or blowing a whistle if necessary.
In October 2008, the City of Aiken and the Foundation, with the participation of the Center for Watershed Excellence at Clemson University, concluded an intensive ten month process of discussing alternatives for addressing erosion in the Hitchcock Woods caused by municipal stormwater runoff. Aiken County staff and council members participated in these meetings, as did representatives from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Department of Natural Resources. The process even attracted the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which also sent representatives to attend.
In March 2009, the City of Aiken and the Foundation agreed to a “Preferred Alternative” that involves stormwater mitigation in the downtown watershed and a more long term plan to address the Sand River corridor. Progress on phase one was evident in 2010 and 2011. The City implemented the green infrastructure project, an ambitious effort to achieve greater infiltration of rainwater in parts of downtown Aiken in order to reduce the volume of stormwater entering the Woods. Clemson University was involved with designing the system and is conducting a research initiative along with this project. Phase two is projected to include the restoration of the Sand River canyon, flow management in Barton’s Pond Wetland, and flushing of sediment that has migrated to Cathedral Aisle Swamp. These efforts support the Foundation’s mission objective to preserve the Woods in an ecologically healthy state.