3 great ways to enjoy Nature in Summer

A beautiful pond in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Visit a park and soak in the serene beauty of the natural landscape all around you.

Now that Summer is upon us, don’t just turn on the air conditioning and crank up the video games. Get outside and connect with Nature!

That doesn’t mean mowing the yard. Take the family or nudge a friend off the couch and go do something fun. Going outside is good for your physical and mental health. Getting immersed in Nature is also soothing to the spirit, and it is a sure way to dissipate stress. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking, and hopefully moving to your door.

Visit a Park

We in Ohio are blessed with a plethora of parks to choose from…Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland Metroparks, Metroparks of the Toledo Area, Hamilton County Park District, and the Columbus and Franklin County Metroparks are just a few of the great places to choose for your next outdoor adventure.

Take a hike to a waterfall

My favorite summertime activity is to check out places with waterfalls. Yes, the flow is sometimes less during the less rainy parts of summer. However, the feeling of coolness and the sounds and sights of rushing water in summer is just soothing and refreshing to me. If waterfalls might tickle your fancy, here are a few trails you might explore to see small waterfalls.

Go Geocaching

Maybe you want some fun and games thrown into your outdoor time. You could try geocaching. All you need is a handheld GPS (Global Postioning System), and the coordinates to a geocache, which you can find on multiple websites, including Geocaching.com.

Any of these will get your blood pumping, allow you to feel the breeze in your hair, and let you feel the sunshine on your skin. The most important thing is to get started. Go out the door and enjoy some Nature today!

 

How do you make a park?

Beautiful Hemlock trees in a northern Ohio Park
Hemlock woods in a peaceful park

Parks and natural areas are vital to living a full life. Everyone loves them. But, do you know where parks come from? Do you know how they are created or could you name one person involved in creating a new park?

Some of you might be able to answer that question. Great. Many more of you will have no idea.  That’s fine too. We all use parks  and have no idea how or when it was created, or who did it.  What really matters is that the park is there, not who did it.

In many cases a park agency, like the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks buys the land, develops the park infrastructure, and then manages the park for the benefit of the public and the plant and animal life found there.  Sometimes though, it is more complicated.  Just as in Nature, everything is interconnected and many factors can play a part in the process.

Park-making has its own ecology. A forest has its canopy trees, mid-level understory, saplings, shrubs, groundcover, soil, leaf litter, microbes, animal life, moisture and light conditions.   Park-creation does too. When one organization with a fixed budget and staff has to do all of the pieces-parts of identifying a potential park, making a deal with the landowner, raising the funds to pay for the park, developing the park infrastructure, staffing and maintaining the park, you have a less robust ecosystem in the world of parks. We don’t expect an oak tree to do the work of a trillium. We don’t expect a warbler to provide shade. Why would we expect agencies that are good at managing parks to also create them?

Luckily, there are some smart park agencies in Ohio. The Geauga Park District, the Portage Park District and MetroParks, Serving Summit County are just a few. These agencies work to effectively and efficiently create new parks in partnership with nongovernmental conservation groups. Working with partners lowers the overall cost of park creation. Savvy agencies are able to focus on their core strengths of managing and interpreting the nature within the parks. This specialization creates a better experience for the park visitor because it frees naturalists and park managers to interpret nature and keep the park running smoothly. Creating a new park takes a completely different skill set.

New parks are real estate deals. Negotiations, contracts, environmental due diligence, title reports, grant applications, private fundraising, bank loans, lot splits, lawyers, CPAs. If a nature-loving park administrator has to deal with these things on a daily basis, how would they ever run the park? Luckily, in the park-making ecosystem, the naturalists can be naturalists, if they understand that there is help out there. In northern Ohio, the complex and often tedious work of creating new park land is often played by Western Reserve Land Conservancy. The Land Conservancy, its trustees, staff and volunteers, all work together with willing landowners and partners to create an interconnected network of protected open space across northern Ohio. They work from Sandusky Bay to the Pennsylvania line, and south past Canton.

Through the Conservancy’s public land program, they help create new public parks. With a professional staff of over 30 experts in each aspect of park creation, the Conservancy provides massive value to all of northern Ohio, even though most people will never know about them. The Conservancy uses its own resources to purchase or finance land for parks when public funds are not immediately available. It then uses its expertise to raise funds and build effective partnerships in order to complete the acquisition of new parks for the benefit of all.

Beyond their public park-making, the Conservancy works with hundreds of landowners to preserve private land. Their efforts are important for plant and animal habitat, water quality protection, and scenic beauty. They also work to ensure agricultural land is protected, which in turn allows the region to rest assured that there will always be land available for the growth of local food. An example of this is Silver Creek Farm in Hiram. This organic farm was conserved by private buyers in partnership with Western Reserve Land Conservancy and will continue to provide wonderful, tasty, wholesome locally grown food.

To date, the Conservancy has helped 400 families leave a legacy by permanently conserving nearly 25,000 of natural and agricultural land. Most of that private preserved land is not open to the public, but it is vital for the region and to all of us personally, whether we know it or not!

People need parks, but parks cannot be created without the efforts of many people.  So,  parks need people too. If you want to take a personal stand for efficient, cost effective land conservation, take a moment to become a member of Western Reserve Land Conservancy today.

 

Coming soon to a park near you…You!

Any area has its own unique energy. You can feel it if you try. This character is right there for all to see, but it is actually much more than meets the eye.

A winter scene in Ohio

How does this winter scene make you feel? A picture is worth a thousand words, but being there is worth a thousand pictures. Get outside and find out instead of sitting in front of your computer and speculating!

One of the best ways to get to know the vibe of the local Nature is to visit many different nearby parks or Nature preserves. You will see a variety of habitats. You will notice the results of different management techniques being implemented by the park managers. You will feel the energy of the Earth being reflected differently in the plants, animals, topography, and watercourses.

You will feel the respect or disrespect for Nature that has been expressed by past generations in the area. If you are in an area where most of the forests are growing on abandoned corn fields, you can feel the tired soil and struggling trees. You will see the sparsity of wildflowers. What humans do is reflected in the landscape. The landscape in turn impacts how humans feel and act.

Get to a park. Feel the Nature of your own area. Is it lacking in some way Can you feel the pulse of the Earth? Is something out of balance? If it is, chances are you will feel that imbalance in your own life. For example, driving by a toxic waste dump or landfill can make you feel uncomfortable. Right? Now, imagine living next to one. Wouldn’t that subtly or not so subtly color everything you do? Over time, our environment shapes us just as much as our human interactions do.

We just don’t notice it.

The old Nature vs Nurture argument becomes Nature and Nurture. We are nurtured by the Nature around us. The natural world allows us to grow and develop. We are deeply part of it and it is deeply intertwined with our being. Just like your childhood home brings up certain feelings and memories, so too does Nature. The closer we get to Nature and the longer we spend immersed in it, the more intense, meaningful and real those feelings and memories become. And, it is those feelings and memories that allow us to fully function as humans. Being born as part of Nature and then living our lives apart from Nature is part of the modern human condition, but it doesn’t have to be. A dog that has his tail and ears docked as a puppy might not miss them as an adult, but there is something missing whether the dog knows it or not.

Humans apart from Nature are just like that poor dog who doesn’t know what it is like to wag his tail or shake his floppy ears.

Don’t be that dog. Get out to a park and explore Nature. Alone or with your kids. With human friends or your dog. Nature is out there waiting for you to come to the park.

 

WKSU News: New park in Portage County receives official dedication

Here is a short news blurb (WKSU News:New park in Portage County receives official dedication) with some audio clips from WKSU about the dedication of the new Burton D and Margaret Clark Morgan Preserve in Portage County. The new park is the largest for Portage Park District and was created through a wide-ranging partnership with some 20 organizations and individuals.

These land protection deals are good for the environment. They are also critical for a community trying to keep taxes under control. The land in this story was once slated for 1,800A singleA family homes. The property taxes generated by those homes would have partially offset added snow plowing, police, fire and other community services. Partially. Add to those services the fact that a development of this scale would have very likely created the need for expanded schools in the area and development of this property would have caused drastic increases in property taxes.

Instead, there is a new park that will protect groundwater resources, collect and filter stormwater, and will provide recreational opportunities for future generations. Everyone wins.

 

Winter Hiking at its best

Cleveland Metroparks’ North Chagrin Reservation is one of my favorite places. The big, old woods of the park beckon us to explore their secrets, even in the dead of winter. From a wide variety of trees to deep cold ravines, to rock outcroppings above frozen streams, this park is truly a winter wonderland.

I took this photo of a black-capped chickadee on my hand at the overlook shelter at the end of the Overlook Trail in A.B. Williams Memorial Woods, a National Natural Landmark located in North Chagrin Reservation. People have fed them there for years, so they are very tame. It is a great place to take kids for a surreal natural experience they will never forget.

Check out a few of the trails at North Chagrin:

 

Check out the Darke County Park District

This photo of the sugar shack at Shawnee Prairie is courtesy of the Darke County Park District.

The Darke County Park District has 12 parks with 500 acres of passive recreation opportunities. If you have never been to Darke County, it is northwest of Dayton, near the Indiana state line.

 

Check out a new page on the park district that we have just added thanks to Robb Clifford, Senior Naturalist with Darke County Parks: Darke County Park District, Western Ohio Parks.