Catch Up on AOA’s Recent Accomplishments
2022 AOA Year in Review Now Available
Thanks to your support 2022 was another incredible year for AOA’s land and water conservation efforts. AOA is celebrating 20 years of conservation achievement and 15,000 acres conserved!
Some of our highlights from 2022 include:
- 337-acre keystone Genevieve Jones Preserve created along the Scioto River Flyway Corridor
- Sale of 25 acres and conservation easement on Pickaway County Park District property and future nature center next to Genevieve Jones Preserve
- Scioto River Flyway Corridor reaches 3,700 conserved acres
- Cedar Run Watershed Conservation Initiative launched with three properties conserved
- Two properties and over 210 acres added to AOA’s Bison Hollow Preserve in the Hocking Hills
- New addition to our Salt Creek Narrows Preserve
- Extensive stewardship and restoration carried out on AOA preserves to enhance native habitats
- Over $9 million in funding procured for new conservation properties and restoration
Our new properties are contributing to AOA’s key conservation initiatives and focus areas in Central and South-central Ohio.
Check out our most recent activities and accomplishments in our attached Year in Review. If you would like to receive a hard copy of our 2022 Year in Review via mail, please contact AOA at email@example.com.
Support AOA Through our 2022 Annual Campaign
As the new year approaches, the Directors and Staff of the Appalachia Ohio Alliance (AOA) would like to thank you for your interest in and support of our conservation work. The generous contributions of our friends and neighbors enable us to preserve precious land and water resources, making a lasting difference in the sustainability and livability of our region.
The AOA year-end Annual Campaign helps raise some of the monies needed to carry out the numerous actions necessary to protect our valuable land and water resources. We are asking for your help, above and beyond normal membership dues, so that we can continue to fulfill this important mission. Together, we can ensure that our land is both an asset and a legacy for our community.
With your support we have succeeded in protecting many acres of very special natural lands, working family farms, scenic areas and heritage sites – with over 15,000 acres conserved so far. Our 2022 Year in Review summarizes some of our accomplishments and activities during last year – including newly conserved lands and many exciting programs and projects. These are just some examples of how you have empowered AOA and why we need your ongoing support. Although we have achieved a great deal, I am sure you will agree that much more conservation is needed.
During the upcoming year we will work to complete a substantial number of very worthy conservation projects that we have in process, including the protection of several large properties in the Hocking Hills and along the Scioto River. We will also be collaborating with our partners on several major conservation initiatives that will increase conserved lands in Central and South-central Ohio – creating connectivity and reducing threats to our land and water resources and the many native species which rely on them.
As we celebrate another year of conservation achievement, your financial support is critical to our continued conservation success. We ask you to consider a special year-end gift to our Annual Campaign fund to help strengthen our capacity to better conserve and steward more lands. We will gladly accept charitable gifts in any amount. Please feel free to contact us if you want to volunteer or contribute to our conservation efforts in another way.
Thank you in advance for your support – we very much appreciate your generosity. I hope that you are as excited as I am about our future and will join us as we strive to make our conserved lands a community asset that we can all be proud of.
Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and the coming new year.
Your Friends at the Appalachia Ohio Alliance
AOA Launches Cedar Run Watershed Conservation Efforts
Adds 80 Acres to Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve
AOA recently launched an initiative to conserve Cedar Run, a relatively small watershed in the Mad River valley which is home to one of the most valued and unique natural areas in Ohio – the 450-acre Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve. There are numerous rare, threatened and/or endangered species in the Cedar Run watershed – virtually all of which are concentrated in Cedar Bog, which contains a rare and unique remnant wetland ecosystem, that has been eradicated from surrounding areas.
Named for the relict population of northern white cedar, Cedar Run receives most of its water from cold water springs fed by a continuous flow of groundwater arising from underground glacially influenced formations. This condition creates a microenvironment which supports a diverse and relatively unique ecosystem that is vulnerable to external forces. The resiliency and sustainability of the habitats in Cedar Bog are highly dependent on the maintenance of the current groundwater level.
The unique habitats and plant associations found here were once widespread but are now confined to a small wetland “island” with no connectivity to other natural systems. As the many wetland habitats that once graced the region have disappeared, flora and fauna that were once relatively common have become rare, while those that were rare have become endangered or extirpated.
AOA is pursuing strategic actions to conserve and protect the rare and unique habitats in the Cedar Run watershed, and the conditions that allow them to exist. As part of a long term, landscape scale conservation approach AOA seeks to: protect and restore riparian areas of Cedar Run and adjacent properties that are suitable to be returned to wetland and other comparable and compatible habitats, expanding the areas that can support the unique habitats and rare species living in the watershed; help protect and enhance surface and groundwater resources; and provide suitable natural buffers for the unique plant communities.
AOA recently acquired the 31-acre Koerner farm adjacent to the northern upstream boundary of Cedar Bog, which conserves 1,530 linear feet of the west branch of Cedar Run, a very high-quality Class III Type B spring-fed Coldwater habitat headwater stream which is the primary groundwater source for Cedar Bog. We also accepted the donation of a 1-acre residential lot and previously acquired a 48-acre parcel on the south side of Cedar Bog from Jeff Clark, protecting 1,450 linear feet of Cedar Run riparian corridor and high-quality riparian wetlands.
AOA Continues to Grow Our Bison Hollow Preserve
AOA purchased two new adjoining Vinton County properties on the south side of Bison Hollow in the upper portion of the South Branch East Fork of Queer Creek watershed. The 172-acre Merrybell Preserve was purchased from the Gratz family. An adjacent 37-acre parcel was purchased from the Kinschner family. Both sites are largely forested with a combination of relatively mature older growth as well as areas of reforested agricultural fields and timber cuts. Conservation of these properties protects 9,000 linear feet of high-quality Class 3B primary headwater coldwater streams.
These new sites expand the existing Preserve, bringing the largely contiguous area protected to 865 acres with another 238 acres in process. Bison Hollow features a spectacular Black Hand Sandstone gorge with a Coldwater Habitat system designated Outstanding State Waters. It is an important component of our Greater Hocking Hills Conservation Initiative.
AOA Purchases Cooks Creek Golf Club Property
Creates a New 337-Acre Preserve along the Scioto River Flyway Corridor
AOA recently completed the purchase of the 325-acre former Cooks Creek Golf Club, situated at the confluence of the Scioto River and Walnut Creek. Located in the Village of South Bloomfield, the property is a little over 12 miles south of the I-270 bypass along Highway 23, a rapidly developing corridor.
The Cooks Creek Golf Club property is a spectacular site with nearly a mile (4,910 feet) of frontage along the Scioto River and 3,485 linear feet of riparian frontage along Walnut Creek. Water quality in this stretch of the Scioto River is exceptional.
AOA is partnering with the Pickaway County Park District which will purchase 25 acres of the 325-acre former Golf Club site from AOA, including the clubhouse building, associated maintenance buildings, paved parking lots and the entry road. The Park District will utilize the site for a passive nature park for the Pickaway County community with a planned nature center and park offices. Many of the existing golf cart paths will be retained for public walking and nature observation.
The new preserve provides exceptional habitat for many species of breeding and migratory birds. Travel paths such as the Scioto River Flyway Corridor are especially important for migrating neotropical birds and waterfowl. The site also provides excellent habitat for other migrating species such as bats and butterflies.
The 300 acres retained by AOA adjoins a 37-acre parcel across Highway 23 previously conserved by AOA, creating a 337-acre nature preserve. The former Cooks Creek property is a keystone parcel that will be a flagship AOA preserve along the Scioto River Flyway Corridor.
Discovering the Fen Orchid, Liparis loeselii, in Vinton County
Ken Mettler, AOA Board Member
Finding orchids in the wild is fun. Many people don’t even know that there are orchids native to Ohio. For those who do, their usual experience is being led into the habitat by someone else who has found the orchids. I’ve been in both of these categories. But now, after nearly forty years of observing orchids in the wild, I am thrilled that I’ve become fairly adept at finding individuals and populations on my own.
This isn’t some magical talent, and I didn’t get there overnight. It comes from spending time out in natural habitats, finding interesting orchids and other species (plant and animal), and keenly observing where they are living.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.