Located just south of Caledonia, along the Olentangy River, is one of Marion County’s rich heritage and natural treasures- Terradise Nature Center. It is there to educate its visitors about the conservation of our world while discovering and researching more about the wildlife of the area, the Olentangy River, and associated wetlands and forests. Their mission is simple but powerful- “To inform and engage our communities in their natural history, heritage, and resources.”
It all began from a purchase of 18 acres of land by Ray and Trella Romine in 1952. The odd-shaped parcel of land had never been developed and contained virgin trees and an abundance of wildflowers. But this unique plot answered Trella’s dream of living “on a hill, by a river, in a woods”. For Ray, it was a place to chase butterflies, hybridize iris, and an inspiration for his verses. He created the name “Terradise” which meant “heaven on earth”.
The property, virtually untouched, had a rich history. Trella learned from Frank Fields that generations of Claridon Township residents had used it as a favorite fishing and picnic spot because it was one of the few areas where the river was accessible from the road. The lane leading to the river was originally part of Marion-Williamsport Road. There it forded the river at its bend. In the past, people on horseback and in wagons crossed there easily, but the 1913 flood altered the course of the river. With that and cars becoming common, the ford became impassible and the road was abandoned, allowing for people to use it recreationally.
The Romines purchased the land from Marie Thomas in 1952. It was a gift from Marie’s husband, Dr. Frank Thomas, who purchased it from Dr. Frederick Stengel in 1941. In 1953, with Trella’s two children- David and Kathy Haldeman, they planned the building of the home and moved in. Unfortunately in 1954 Ray passed away.
Trella and the children remained at Terradise, taking care of the house and land. She introduced many wildflowers and woody-plants to the grounds, working to increase the biodiversity of the area.
Trella Romine wanted to preserve the area, mostly river-bottom land, for the benefit of those who love the out-of-doors. In 1988, she requested the Probate Court establish the Marion County Park District. Then Trella donated 12 acres on the south bank of the Olentangy River (formerly Whetstone) as a gift from her and her children Kathy Haldeman Sands and David Haldeman, retaining six acres where she and Ray built their home. Terradise, originally one parcel of land and recognized at an Ohio Natural Landmark in 1990, became the 14 acres called Terradise Nature Preserve, maintained by Marion County Park District and the separate non-profit Terradise Nature Center.
In 2013, Trella Romine passed away, leaving her son David to continue the mission of Terradise. Today, Terradise Nature Center is a nonprofit organization that works to engage the public in several areas including education about our natural resources, classes for schoolchildren, and the unique experience of lodging in the Romine House. Their program director is Tyler Butler, a passionate educator, and naturalist, who along with Terradise’s Board, manages the property and offers programs for the public and school children to discover more about this amazing resource in Marion County.
Plans are currently underway for an interpretive center. Hikers and visitors are encouraged to hike the new trail system as individuals or with groups of 6 or less. Please observe social distancing, and wear a mask if with others not in your normal group.
The beauty of the site allows visitors to discover something new throughout the seasons. From mid-April until mid-May more than 30 species of spring wildflowers are in bloom. Terradise has over 40 species of native trees and shrubs. It is perfect for bird watching as it is along annual migration routes. There are also activities and videos on their website at terradise.org. The Romine House is available for overnight stays through their Air BnB listing, perfect for out of town guests and visitors.
Take time and discover the beauty of the Terradise Nature Center. Marion is very lucky that the Romines and Haldeman’s preserved it for us all.