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Saturday, May 21
Birdwatching Hike Along the Scioto River Flyway
M.G. Schneider Preserve
Enjoy a birding expedition to the wilds of the Scioto River at AOA’s sprawling Marsha Gunder Schneider Preserve in Pickaway County. We will visit different parts of the preserve – wetland pond, bottomland forests, prairies, streams and forested riparian corridor along the Scioto. Visit the 5-foot diameter ~500-year old oak on the river bank that has watched over the river since the Shawnee lived under its branches.
While hiking we will search for migrants that are winging their way north along the Scioto River flyway corridor. We will also check out the resident birds and summer breeders in the area – plus the heron rookery in the large sycamore trees along the river. All levels of birders are welcome.
OSU’s Amy Collins-Warfield will lead this hike which will be tailored to the event participant’s interest in the habitats and bird species. We are estimating a 2-hour hike. Feel free to stay shorter or longer if you like and explore more of the property and the 500 acres preserved by AOA at the confluence of the Scioto River and Scippo Creek as part of our Scioto River Flyway Initiative. The Birdwatching Hike and other AOA events are free and open to the public. This activity will be held rain or shine – so please come prepared and dress appropriately for the weather.
Sunday, May 22
Spring Wildflower and Orchid Walk
Mercer Woods Old Growth Forest Preserve
Walk through mature hardwood and hemlock forests and explore the wildflower covered slopes, immersing ourselves in the magnificence of the beautiful old growth forest habitat. Orchid expert Ken Mettler will lead this tour of the Mercer Woods old Growth Forest Preserve that will focus on identifying native wildflowers and spring orchids of the Hocking Hills region. We expect to see at least 4 or 5 orchids in bloom.
Mercer Woods is the core portion of 4 properties and over 180 acres conserved by AOA in scenic Misty Valley. Located in the northern extent of the Hocking Hills, this area is part of AOA’s Hocking River Conservation Corridor initiative. The site includes characteristic Hocking Hills landscape features including sandstone outcrops, a small gorge and headwater streams and low waterfalls in the several ravines. There are a wide variety of habitats and numerous wildflowers – some still in bloom. Mercer Woods is home to the largest trees and the most impressive old growth forest found on any of AOA’s many preserves. The highlight is a couple of nearly 5-foot diameter oaks.
Afterwards, feel free to wander the preserve on your own. Participants are invited to stay and roam the site with AOA volunteers to help remove the garlic mustard that is invading portions of the site and choking out the wildflowers. We will provide bags. The Mercer Woods Walk and other AOA events are free and open to the public. This activity will be held rain or shine – so please come prepared and dress appropriately for the weather and hiking on slopes.
Volunteer Stewardship Opportunities
Help AOA protect our Native Ohio Wildflowers and Landscapes
Spending time in AOA’s beautiful, conserved forests can be very peaceful and therapeutic. It also provides opportunities for viewing the many native wildflowers and camaraderie with fellow conservationists. You can help us make a difference by protecting and enhancing the quality of the rare and wonderful native habitats at our preserves.
We need your assistance to combat the Garlic Mustard and invasive plant scourge threatening native habitats on our preserves. We know garlic mustard pulling is not the most glamorous activity, but it is critically needed to protect our native wildflowers and plant communities. We cannot do it alone.
We have scheduled a series of organized work days each week to provide opportunities for volunteers to visit our preserves and assist with our habitat protection and stewardship activities. Dates and locations are posted on the website, in our emails and on Facebook. We are usually on site from at least 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each work day. Feel free to come at any time and stay as long as you are able to participate.
Hope to see you in one of our beautiful, conserved forests and fields.
Thursday, May 19
Join us for a Volunteer Workday at AOA’s Kleinmaier SNP
Help AOA conserve this special natural space! AOA’s Kleinmaier SNP is a host to some spectacular native flora, including painted Trillium, and the rare Flame Azalea. The native wildflowers on the preserve are under constant threat from invasive species, which compete with native plants for sunlight, nutrients, and available soil. We can directly improve the habitat for Ohio wildflower and plant species by hand pulling Garlic Mustard throughout the sandstone capped gorge on this site. Please consider stopping by for a bit to assist and to learn more about Kleinmaier SNP. Thank You!
Stay at an AOA Cabin in the Hocking Hills
AOA Offers Year-Round Cabin Rental Options at Two of our Most Beautiful Preserves. The chalet-style house on our Mercer Woods Old Growth Forest Preserve in the Hocking Hills is available for use as a vacation rental cabin. Built by Elbert Mercer, the home was generously donated to AOA by the Mercer family along with 116 acres of forestland – one of our most beautiful and popular preserves. Guests to the cabin can walk out into the spectacular forest and enjoy hiking and nature on the preserve site.
Two cabins at the northern entrance to AOA’s Bison Hollow Preserve just south of Ash Cave are also now available for nightly rental. Donated to AOA by the Russell family, these include a heritage chestnut log cabin and a newer cabin hand built by the Russell’s.
As AOA pursues the conservation and aggregation of parcels into larger habitat preserves, we have gained a growing number of structures – most of which have been donated to us. This includes houses, cabins, barns, and accessory structures such as well houses, indicative of legacy land uses. While many of these are in poor condition and need to be demolished, we try to preserve and reuse structures when feasible.
AOA cabins are available through our real estate partner, Venture in Real Estate, in Logan. Proceeds from guests staying in one of AOA’s cabins support our conservation mission.
AOA Burns Conservation Demonstration Site Preserve
A small crew burned the prairies on AOA’s Conservation Demonstration Site Preserve located along the Hocking River in Rockbridge. Prescribed fires are an important tool in the management of native prairies, helping to remove dead vegetation and controlling the invasion of woody plants. Prairie plants are adapted to the cyclical burning and respond well to fire. AOA will take this opportunity to supplement the existing prairie vegetation with new native prairie seed to improve the plant diversity on the site.
Visit the Properties that You are Helping to Conserve
Save the Dates – AOA 2022 Event and Activity List Posted
AOA recently posted our scheduled 2022 events and activities list on our website – see link below. We will lead organized expeditions to some of our properties throughout the Hocking Hills, along Big Darby Creek, to Cedar Bog, and in the Scioto River Flyway.
Join us for one of our guided field trips and experience AOA’s fabulous preserves up close. Looking forward to seeing you soon!
As usual, specific event details will be emailed the week of the event. Please stay tuned as other events may be added and dates may be subject to change due to weather conditions. Any changes will be included in blasts, posted on the website and on Facebook.
Catch Up on AOA’s Recent Accomplishments
2021 AOA Year in Review Available
Thanks to your support 2021 was another incredible year for AOA’s land and water conservation efforts. AOA is celebrating the conservation of 32 new properties totaling over 1,750 acres during 2020-21, bringing the total land conserved by AOA so far to 153 properties and more than 14,000 acres.
Recent lands conserved include:
- 352 acres in the Scioto River Flyway Corridor
- 476 acres along Big Darby Creek
- 239 acres to expand Bison Hollow Preserve
- 396 acres in the Hocking River Conservation Corridor
- 166 acres in Hocking Hills conservation easements
- 77 acres in the Salt Creek Narrows
These properties are contributing to our key conservation initiatives and focus areas in Central and South-central Ohio. Over 21 properties and 875 acres were conserved in the Hocking Hills – one of Ohio’s premiere natural and tourism assets.
Check out our most recent activities and accomplishments in our attached Year in Review. If you would like to receive a hard copy via mail, please contact AOA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Beautiful Day on the River
Big Darby Creek Float
Thirty-five (35) friends and supporters were fortunate to be able to enjoy a float trip on a picturesque section of upper Big Darby Creek. Our flotil- la of 17 watercraft successfully navigated the many twists and turns of Central Ohio’s spectacular Wild and Scenic River.
We stopped at AOA’s Big Darby Oaks preserve, viewing the new beaver lodge and blooming swamp milkweed, while learning about the value of natural riparian corridors and the characteristics of a healthy river system. The many scenic and natural wonders we encountered inspired a sense of wonder and awe at the natural beauty of our local natural habitats – illustrating the importance of AOA’s riparian corridor and water quality protection activities along Darby Creek and other watersheds in our region.
We are grateful to Bob Gable and Heather Doherty of ODNR’s Scenic Rivers Program for leading this fun adventure and sharing their knowledge of the Big Darby and Ohio’s river habitats.
AOA Plants 12,000 Trees Along Big Darby Creek
Restores Bottomland Forest Habitat at Igel Preserve
AOA planted 12,000 trees last week as part of our riparian corridor restoration activities along the Big Darby. The 34-acre floodplain field portion of our 100-acre Igel preserve was planted with a diverse mix of floodplain species to help restore the site to its original bottomland forest habitat. The field was previously planted in native prairie species as part of the restoration succession plan.
Bottomland forests provide many benefits including: storing floodwater, reducing downstream flooding; improving water quality by filtering nutrients and wastes and reducing sediment and erosion; providing important habitat for waterfowl, songbirds, turkey, bats, and numerous other wildlife; and providing critical migratory corridors for many species of birds and wildlife.
The Igel Preserve retains a mature bottomland forest habit along the river which has a diverse mix of trees and wildflowers – see photo of large (over 1-acre), dense patch of Michigan Lilies and Star-flowered Solomon’s Seal) along the river. The new trees will help expand this forest to the entire floodplain portion of the property.
This project is part of AOA’s water quality initiative along the Big Darby, as well as our efforts to conserve and restore habitat in a known bat corridor that includes several rare species including Indiana Bats. The conservation and planting activities are a collaborative effort of AOA with several partner organizations including The Conservation Fund and OEPA DEFA (Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance).
AOA Preserves Upper Big Darby Creek Property
A beaver lodge appears at the edge of the stream. Majestic sycamores shade the riparian corridor cooling the water for the resident smallmouth bass and mollusks. Stately oaks several hundred years old join the hickory trees on the ridge in providing habitat for the great horned owls and bald eagles often seen here. A snapping turtle slides off a log into the green waters of the creek as a heron takes off from its perch, as kayakers drift by marveling at the quiet beauty so close to the expanding Columbus metropolis.
This property was once home to some of this country’s easternmost tallgrass prairie. An oak savanna consisting of scattered oaks soaring above wildflowers and prairie grass. What stories these 300 year old oaks could tell if they could talk. Perhaps they would explain that prairie wildflowers blanketed the ground all summer, and Native Americans often would use controlled fire to help hunt bison and assist plant management. Or that the first white settler in this area, Jonathan Alder – kidnapped by the Shawnees from Virginia – likely frequented this riverbank as he lived in a cabin not far downstream.
Like in the pioneer times when Jonathan Alder wandered these woods, these are times of change. The native hunters are long gone. The challenges of today are much different, but no less urgent. Pressing urbanization is endangering the protection of a stream that is blessed with tremendous aquatic biodiversity- over 100 species of fish and 40 species of freshwater mollusk. In many ways the Darby is a window back in time to the years before European settlement, yet development remains a serious threat. In 2019, the conservation group “American Rivers” named the Darby one of America’s most threatened rivers.
This Big Darby Oaks property has been forever protected through a recent acquisition by AOA with funding from OEPA. This site includes high bluff along the river with bottomland riparian habitat and fields that are being converted to native prairie. A patch of old forest has been cut but never cleared for farming like most of land in this area.
With your help, more can be done to protect one of our country’s Wild and Scenic Rivers, Big Darby Creek, and the flora and fauna that call it home. Click the link below to make your tax-deductible contribution so AOA can continue its important work in the Big Darby Conservation Corridor.
AOA Adds Key Property to Scioto River Flyway Corridor
Protection and restoration of the Fleming Bend property continues AOA’s ongoing and successful efforts to protect and restore the Lower Scioto River and its tributaries as part of our Scioto River Flyway Corridor Initiative. This 309-acre property which protects 13,880 linear feet of riparian floodplain is an important addition to the corridor. Located in central Pickaway County, immediately west of downtown Circleville, the Fleming Bend site lies on a large bend in the Scioto River. It includes a 50-acre island surrounded by river channel.
The Fleming Bend addition project is being undertaken with Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program monies designated for protection and restoration of high-quality steams and wetlands in Ohio. This project is administered by the Ohio Department of Environmental Protection (OEPA) which recently completed an environmental assessment process for the project. A complete copy of the environmental documents may be found here. The City of Columbus’ Lower Olentangy Tunnel WPCLF loan project is the municipal sponsor for this property.
AOA Moves Forward with Big Darby Creek Conservation
Over 285 Acres to be Added
AOA is working to add new properties to AOA’s Big Darby Creek Conservation Corridor in Pickaway County. Big Darby Creek is a National and State designated Scenic River that is recognized as “one of the most biologically diverse aquatic systems in the Midwest”. It is home to 38 known state and federally listed species, including numerous freshwater mussels and fish.
These properties will be conserved with funding from the Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program, which seeks to protect and restore high-quality streams and wetlands in Ohio. This program is administered by the Ohio Department of Environmental Protection which recently completed a limited environmental assessment process for the Big Darby Creek Conservation Corridor Additions project. A complete copy of the environmental documents may be found here. AOA’s new Big Darby conservation properties are being sponsored by the City of Columbus’ Lower Olentangy Tunnel WPCLF loan project.
Appalachia Ohio Alliance is dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of our land and water as sustainable natural resources that are an asset and a legacy for our community
Appalachia Ohio Alliance is a regional non-profit conservancy dedicated to the conservation of land and water resources in central and southeastern Ohio. Find out how you can help our efforts.
Get outside with AOA and explore and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us!
When we consider what it took to create this landscape, we must also consider what we can do to insure that future generations will also be able to marvel at its beauty.
The scenic views, diversity of plants and wildlife, and quiet times in the country will all be enhanced by the security of knowing that things can stay this way into the future.
In the end, I decided to sell my property to AOA because I love it so much. It was hard to part with it – but I am not really parting with it – it is there forever thanks to AOA.
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