‘I wish I were hiking,’ she said, her voice trailing

‘I wish I were hiking,’ she said, her voice trailing

As I write this, my “light therapy” lamp is aglow on my desk, standing in for real sunshine to supposedly boost my mood and concentration. The sky outside my window is a light-colored gray, which is somewhat encouraging as it’s the lightest color of gray I’ve seen in weeks. One assumes the sun is still there, but January in Northeast Ohio can make you wonder.

But hey, it’s not all gloom and doom. A little booklet I bought myself for Christmas holds great promise and has sparked enthusiasm for brighter days. Titled “Park Passport,” it’s a spiral-bound guide to all the Ohio State Parks, of which there are 75.

I honestly thought I knew about most of Ohio’s state parks, as my family and I enjoy camping and hiking, and we have had a variety of professional-development meetings around the state at many state parks. It turns out I haven’t even scratched the surface of visiting all the parks. I bought several “Park Passports” for friends, so I’m looking forward to the day where we say, “Meet me on page 28 for a hike.”

There’s a sticker for each park to track visits, as well as a small space for notes. “Park Passport” doesn’t have much space for specific details about each park (a full listing of features along with trail maps can be found on the ODNR website), but it’s handy to have all the parks listed in one compact publication. The cost is only $10 and can be purchased at www.Ohiodnr.gov by clicking on “Buy and Apply.” My enthusiasm for exploring Ohio doesn’t stop with the parks.

Recently, in conjunction with another project our office is supporting, I’ve learned more about the Arc of Appalachia. Since 1995 the organization has received title to 120 properties, preserving nearly 7,000 acres of Ohio forests and environmentally significant lands as sanctuary.

While visiting Serpent Mound several years ago, my family and I happened upon one of their projects, the Highlands Nature Sanctuary, which was simply amazing. While most of their preserves are in Southern Ohio, they are looking at a partnership in Holmes County. The organization has an incredible story and an army of volunteers that has made great strides in the past 25 years. I am definitely seeking out more of these wildlands.

Also, in the pile on my desk is the Ohio Nature Conservancy newsletter, “Our Ohio Nature.” The Nature Conservancy has many preserves in Ohio, the oldest and largest being the Edge of Appalachia. I have read about this place for years but have yet to visit, so it’s going to the top of my list.

TNC has projects in the Lake Erie Watershed preserving wetlands and providing habitat for migratory birds. Closest to Holmes County is Brown’s Lake Bog, a TNC preserve outside of Shreve protecting a kettle hole bog and glacially formed hill called a kame. A short hike leads to the bog, which includes 20 rare plant species and two carnivorous plants.

“Our Ohio Nature” included a small snippet titled “Nature Brings the Green.” It states that investments in conservation serve as powerful drivers of economic growth. According to a study conducted by the Ohio State University, an average of 171 million outdoor recreation trips infuse $5.9 billion into Ohio’s economy each year. The outdoor recreation industry also employs approximately 132,000 Ohioans and contributes $8.1 billion to the state’s economy annually. That’s a lot of green for sure.

Obviously, I’m not alone in my quest for outdoor adventure. Ohio winters may be gloomy, but we do have great recreational opportunities with an amazing variety of wildlife to enjoy. I’m thankful for these organizations and the generous people who support them. Nature therapy beats light therapy any day.

Holmes SWCD is working with several partners to increase recreational opportunities in Holmes County, and while it’s too soon to say much about these projects, we are hopeful we can connect more people with conservation through recreation. Stay updated about our current projects at www.HolmesSWCD.com and follow us on Facebook.

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