Joyce Gardner has been hiking for years. And as a lifelong Cincinnati resident, she was pretty sure she had visited most of the area’s natural spaces.
So Gardner was surprised when she found some hidden gems this summer as part of the Nature Conservancy’s Natural Treasures of Ohio Challenge.
“People don’t realize that we really have some great trails here,” says Gardner, of Covedale, who hiked in Ault Park
and Mt. Airy Forest
locally and visited another 11 natural areas across the state with her husband.
Sure Gardner and her friend, Kathy Brown, visited the Ault Park Pavilion and Everybody’s Tree House in Mt. Airy; but they also spent hours discovering the trails that many may miss, she says.
That was exactly the point of the Nature Conservancy’s challenge: To introduce and showcase some of the state’s natural areas and encourage residents from all corners of the state to learn about the various natural wonders of the state.
“Our hope is that folks would find natural areas and say: ‘Wow, I had no idea that this is here,’ ” says Josh Knights, executive director of the Nature Conservancy in Ohio
. “And at the end of the day, we believe that if Ohioans discover and come to know these areas, they will be inspired to help us protect them.”
That Nature Conservancy and Honda launched the challenge, a kind of treasure hunt, in June. Ohio residents could visit one to 30 designated places and upload a photo of themselves at the designated landmark on the Nature Conservancy’s Web site
for a chance to win a 2012 Honda Insight Hybrid. The contest, which will also award five $500 REI gift certificates, ran from May 22 to Aug. 8. Winners are expected to be announced in September.
More than 3,000 entries were filed, with many people visiting all 30 places this summer. Many families used the challenge as their summer vacation, Knight says. While pleased with the participation, he wonders if this summer’s record-breaking heat and high gasoline prices may have hindered some participation.
The photo galleries, as well as the detailed descriptions and maps of each of the 30 destinations that are organized by geography, will remain on the Nature Conservancy at least through December and maybe longer, Springs says.
While winning would be nice, Gardner says the challenge really created an opportunity for she and her husband, John, to visit areas they have always wanted to – including Kelly’s Island State Park
on Lake Erie, where they celebrated their 33rd
wedding anniversary. They also stumbled across several parks they normally would never have set out to themselves.
Her new favorite? Magee Marsh Wildlife Area
, in Northern Ohio between Toledo and Sandusky on Lake Erie. She likened the 2,200-acre state park to being in the Everglades.
“I was really impressed with that one,” she says. “I really couldn’t believe I was standing in Ohio.”
That’s not the first time Knights has heard that about the state’s varied natural elements. “Ohio really does have a diverse landscape; from one of the largest lakes in the world to the Ohio River there in Cincinnati … Ohio has all of these fantastic places. We wanted to introduce more Buckeyes to what we have at home.”
• Follow the Ohio Nature Conservancy on Facebook.
• Visit some of the designations
• See the photos of the Southwest Ohio designations
and read the scrapbook
• Watch the video.
Chris Graves, assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency, loves the outdoors. You will find her camping with her daughters on Kelly’s Island this fall.