Programs increase awareness on Darby system

Two events last week on central Ohio’s Darby creek system will
increase public access to these state and national scenic
rivers.

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and a
battery of local officials broke ground for a new,
14,000-square-foot nature center at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park
on Big Darby Creek in western Franklin County.

The center is slated for completion in about a year – just in
time for the 4th International EcoSummit, a gathering of experts in
ecological science and restoration that is scheduled for Columbus
Sept. 30-Oct. 5, 2012.

“We will welcome the world next year,” said John O’Meara,
director of Franklin County Metro Parks.

Funding for the $6.1 million nature center, including about
$530,000 in exhibits, comes from a metro parks tax levy approved by
Franklin County voters in 2009.

Among displays planned for the center is an interactive “living
stream,” an indoor re-creation of Big and Little Darby Creeks’
unique ecosystem, according to Larry Peck, the park system’s deputy
director.

The building will also encompass classrooms, an auditorium, and
exhibits about the natural and human history of the Darbies.

Metro park officials hope the new facility will draw students
and visitors to the 7,000-acre metro park, which is home to a herd
of American bison, from central Ohio and beyond.

Peck expects the nature center to become an integral hub for
educational programs that will spark students’ interest in science.
There’s also an economic component to the project, since visitors
are expected to spend money at local businesses.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, officials from Madison County held an open
house at the new Robert T. Florence Little Darby State Scenic
Nature Preserve on that county’s eastern edge.

The preserve was once a farm owned by the Florence family – one
of the county’s oldest. Florence heirs sought to preserve the
natural beauty of site, along with the portion of Little Darby
Creek that meanders through it, for public enjoyment.

The Ohio DNR’s Scenic Rivers Program purchased the 214 acres in
2007, via a grant from the Ohio EPA. In turn, Scenic Rivers leased
the 214 acres to Madison County for 20 years to manage for
biological benefit, according to Commissioner Dave Dhume.

A small gravel parking lot at the intersection of
Lafayette-Plain City Road and Woods West Avenue in Monroe Township
is open from a half-hour before daylight until a half-hour after
sunset for the convenience of preserve visitors.

Currently, a half-mile walking path leads from the parking lot
through a season grass meadow to the creek and its forested canopy.
Future plans call for extending the mowed trail into a two-mile
loop.

The preserve is open for hiking, bird watching, photography and
fishing. Motor vehicles and hunting are prohibited.

 

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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