The Richland County Park District has hit their half-century mark this summer, as one of Ohio’s 61 county run park districts, which span the Buckeye State.
Different than other municipalities’ park operations, the Richland County Park district oversees the county’s nature and recreational trails, as their staff is responsible for the B&O Bike Trail, in addition to the nature center and county land parcels. The Richland County Park District was founded in 1965 by Charles Freehafer. During its early years the district did not formally own land until 1975, when Jim Gorman donated 20-acres to the county for recreational use.
The newly acquired property was located on Lexington Avenue, and it eventually became the site of the Gorman Nature Center, the park’s current day operational headquarters.
Along with housing the park’s day-to-day management duties, the Gorman Nature Center is home to a variety of native species throughout its trails, prairie, wetland and forest habitats. “We try to focus on nature here,” said Gorman Nature Center Director Jason Larson. “It’s just one of the areas the park district manages, but it’s where we really work out of. Throughout the year we give tours of the building and grounds along with the other stuff we do.”
“We run a lot of hands on nature talks,” said Gorman Nature Center Naturalist Amanda Kriner, who was busy packing for a snake demonstration the staff was hosting at the Richland County Fair. “It’s a great way to our show guests what we do here.”
In addition to their regularly scheduled events that span the duration of the summer, the staff at the Gorman Nature Center has prepared a series of events to celebrate the park district’s 50th anniversary.
Beginning Aug. 19, the Gorman Nature Center will host an open house from 3-6 p.m. complete with a tour of the facility, as well as a chance to explore the property. The event will also feature hands-on activities with the center’s animals and other educational opportunities. “The goal is to get people out here,” said Larson. “It’s our way of spotlighting our work and celebrating 50 years.”
Following the open house, the nature center is throwing a 50th anniversary weekend celebration on Aug. 22 and 23. The weekend is packed with a series of events such as a ‘reptile and amphibian hike’ and a spidering presentation.
“The prairie walk is a great opportunity for guests,” said Larson. “They will get to see all the different species that live in our prairies and right now is the best time of year it. The grass is as tall as it will grow this season and everything is full of life.”
Larson also recommends guests come to the ‘Night-time Wonders’ event that begins at 9 p.m. on Aug 22. “We are pulling out all of the stops there,” he said. “We are going to be hooting for owls and giving everyone a chance to see what the trails look like at night.”
For a complete listing of all the weekend’s events call the Gorman Nature Center at 419-884-3764.