A lot of dedication has gone into the development of the Marion Tallgrass Trail, so it no wonder it is probably the first to jump to mind when discussing the Marion County Park District. For those who enjoy communing with nature, the Trail, as well as four other natural treasures – Myers Woods, Terradise, Greenspur, and the Caledonia Nature Preserve – are well worth visiting.
The Tallgrass Trail
is perhaps most impressive because of how the Marion community came together to make the trail happen. Hundreds of individuals and organizations helped the Prairie Parks Foundation with this project. $800,000 in donations, paired with thousands of hours of volunteer labor, helped the park district to qualify for $3,000,000 in grants to complete it.
It was completed to the Hardin County line in late 2017 and is now 12.44 miles long, extending westward from its trailhead at 2093 Holland Road West, along the former Erie-Lackawanna railroad corridor.
Visitors can find trumpeter swans, bald eagles, and a beaver lodge along the shore of the 53-acre Marion Community Foundation Lake, beyond which the trail stretches across a vast open area, crosses State Route 203, and enters the Big Island Wildlife area. It passes the villages of Espyville, New Bloomington and DeCliff, crosses State Route 37 and through a tunnel under Riley Road, before the final 1.4 mile stretch to the county line.
Tallgrass is heavily utilized by walkers, runners, bicyclists, and nature enthusiasts, both human and canine. An observation deck overlooks Foundation Lake near the midpoint of the first mile and fishing is available. Nature programs are offered year-round by naturalist James Anderson, a schedule of which is available online at http://www.marioncountyparks.info/.
Myers Woods is a 5-acre wooded property near the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area in northern Marion County. The park is located on Marion-Wyandot Road, halfway between Stauffer and Prospect-Upper Sandusky Road. It is a quiet, reflective woodland, well suited for a short stroll in the woods, enjoying wildflowers, birds and other wonders of nature on land donated to the park district in 1996 by the late Judge Charlton Myers and his family.
Located a mile south of Caledonia, off State Route 746 at the dead end of the Marion Williamsport Road, Terradise is described by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources designated as an “outstanding environmental education area that possesses exceptional value in illustrating and interpreting the natural heritage of Ohio.” It includes a parking area, shelter house, and trails. Geocaching is available on the property, as is a launch area for canoes and kayaks off Whetstone River Road.
Terradise is notable for the diversity of the native trees and plants growing there, including 40 species of native trees and shrubs such as hickory, walnut, oak, ash, beech, buckeye, pawpaw, hawthorn, box elder, willow, and poplar. In early spring, more than 30 species of spring wildflowers are in bloom – spring beauties, Dutchman’s britches, trout lilies, trilliums, bloodroot, bellwort, Solomon’s seal, and jack-in-the-pulpit, among others. And, the spring bird migration brings many transient species to join the 15+ resident species.
Local historian and naturalist, the late Trella Romine, donated 12 acres of her personal property in 1998 for the park. In 2004, Ralph Boger donated an additional two acres that includes a former spring and ford across the Olentangy River. Trella passed away in 2013 and, in 2018, the rest of the original 18 acres was donated by her son, David Haldeman, to the Terradise Nature Center (a non-profit Ohio corporation) to further her wishes in making her former home and library available by appointment for regular programs, meetings, research and overnight stays.
Prior to her passing, Trella explained, “Traditionally, the 18 acres along the river that my late husband, Ray, and I purchased in 1953 had been used by locals for access to the river from Whetstone River Road. Here we built our home in 1953 and Ray coined the word ‘Terradise’ for it since it seemed to us that we had found ‘heaven on earth.’ I resolved to preserve this pristine area for the benefit of those who love the out-of-doors.”
More information can be found online at terradise.org.
Greenspur, located on State Route 203, two and a half miles north of Prospect, is a 7-acre wooded area. It lies on the spur line from the old Interurban line to the former power plant along the Scioto River. It is largely second-growth woodland with a small pond and wetland.
The land for Greenspur was donated to the park district by the late John Watkins, a former Marion County Commissioner, and the balance provided through a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Caledonia Nature Preserve
The second largest of the county parks is the Caledonia Nature Preserve, consisting of 37 wooded acres on the east side of the Olentangy River, just north of the village of Caledonia.
The majority of this preserve is, at present, inaccessible to the public, due to the river, railroad property, and farm fields. A historic bowstring bridge crosses the river to the park. While the bridge is barricaded for safety reasons, it serves as a pictorial landmark. The section of the Caledonia Nature Preserve with public access is located south of the railroad tracks.
The County Park District was formed in 1995. It’s work is done by five commissioners — Dan Sheridan, Carol Bowman, Janine Williams, Diane Watson, and Dave Little — who hold monthly public meetings at noon on the third Thursday of the month in the Marion County Building’s Prospect Room. Additional information on the parks and programs of the Marion County Park District can be found online by visiting www.marioncountyparks.info/.
Additionally, there are lots of other great parks scattered around the county. The Pleasant Township Park and Prospect Park are especially popular. Waldo, Caledonia, Morral, Green Camp, and LaRue all have beautiful community parks as well. And, the Big Island Wildlife Area is located in western Marion County.