The Geauga County Barn Quilt Trail began in 2015. Nationally, barn quilt trails are located in 48 states, and 38 counties in Ohio. Their purpose is to promote the historic beauty and cultural significance of quilt making through the exhibition of hand painted historically accurate quilt squares affixed to barns and buildings. It’s an agricultural and tourism project designed to promote and celebrate our heritage as well as draw tourism, and beautify our landscapes. On February 19, the Geauga Park District joined the trail by adding the sixth barn quilt to Geauga’s collection.
Middlefield – The home of Geauga Park District’s 4-foot-by-4-foot barn quilt square is Swine Creek Reservation, on a barn built to house horses for wagon rides, sleigh rides and sap gathering from the early 1980s through the late 1990s. In fact, original naturalist Duane Feris conceived the park’s Wagon Loop Trail for the express purpose of getting people out in Nature via horse-drawn wagon rides. The barn is located on Hayes Rd. just north of the entrance to the park, 15750 Hayes Road, Middlefield Township.
“Those were good times,” says current Geauga Park District Executive Director John Oros, who as a maintenance tech, rotated running wagon ride shifts in the mid-1990s with Kelly Yeater and Tom Mansfield. “The local community or those who had relatives in from out of town, they’d just show up after church to go on ride. The nostalgia – people really appreciated it.”
“And you’d make special stops: the sapsucker tree that had been riddled by the woodpeckers, the trilliums in the springtime, you’d stop and grab some hickory nuts or tell people about the white oak trees.”
Some days a half dozen people would come out; other days, rides would be full, he said, especially when naturalists hosted special interpretations.
Said Naturalist Judy Bradt-Barnhart, “When I started in 1989 the barn was already there with Charlie and Vicki, and I had to work every weekend to do wagon rides from 1 to 6 p.m. Many Amish would picnic in the shelters back then; they rode the wagon by gender: women and children, then men separately.”
The park’s first horses were Clydesdales, Vicki (who is buried in the pasture there) and Charlie. The park then purchased Belgians, Rick and Jim, and the three male horses alternated working together. Charlie eventually retired, and when the Park District got out of the business of owning horses, Rick and Jim were sold to the Amish down the road, but were still rented for a time to collect sap in the sugarbush – a more quiet, nostalgic method that had less impact to the ground than a tractor.
The most prominent interpretive volunteers on these rides were Iola Skinner, Audrey Hudak and Ann Ungard, Oros said.
A concrete water trough still on site – “one of the fanciest water troughs at that time” – was built by Tim Kallay.
After more than a decade without them, in 2015 Geauga Park District was thrilled to bring horses back to the sugarbush for Sap’s-a-Risin’! in March and to the Wagon Loop Trail for Fall Fest in October, and plans to contract these services for years come.
Assisting in the creation of this square were Geauga Park District’s Sandy Ward, communications manager; Holly Sauder, volunteer coordinator and special events assistant; Teresa Runion, special events coordinator; Vicky Liptak, graphic designer; Brett Bellas, grounds and facilities manager; and Michele Pennell, director of business and visitor services. Volunteer Don Winton of Chardon built the structure.
The Monarch-and-milkweed theme was conceived on a March afternoon at Cottonpicker’s Quilt Shop in Chardon, where Ward, Runion, shop owner Beth Safic and quilter Kathryn Gostola discussed how to weave the Park District’s mission into the design.
For the past 20 years, large stands of milkweed that once grew between crops and around field edges throughout the Midwest have been killed due to the genetic modification of crops to resist Roundup, causing a shortage of this sole host plant for the Monarch butterfly and, thus, a sharp decline in its reproductive success. Geauga Park District has hosted a Monarch display, with live tagging and releasing, at The Great Geauga County Fair for decades. But determined to make a bigger difference in 2015, Geauga Park District distributed at least 3,000 milkweed seed packets at the county fair, as well as 959 pots, each holding five to seven milkweed seedlings, via free public giveaways – that’s nearly 7,000 milkweed plants rooted regionally in a single year. These efforts results in a third-place finish in Ohio Parks and Recreation Association’s Awards of Excellence for environmental and interpretive programs.
The hope is that continued efforts to raise awareness of this situation positively affect the population of this iconic butterfly. Painting was completed in February 2016 by Ward, Sauder, Runion, Liptak and Pennell, and hanging was done Friday, February 19, by maintenance techs Hailey Burns and Joshua Inks, with Ward, Sauder, Runion, Liptak and Winton present to sign the back of the square for posterity.
Swine Creek Reservation is a 412-acre park located in the southeast corner of Middlefield Township, situated in the countryside among Amish farms, that protects mature forest, meadows, ponds and Swine Creek. A 268-acre parcel was once part of a 1,200-acre hunting preserve belonging to Windsor Ford of Mesopotamia, and was sold to the Park District in 1977. Today, amenities include nearly six miles of trails; an enclosed lodge and three outdoor picnic shelters, all reservable; an active sugarbush, part of public maple sugaring programming each March; south access to The Maple Highlands Trail, which extends the length of the county; fishing at Killdeer and Lodge ponds; a soccer goal; horseshoe pits; and tetherball. Learn more about this park at http://bit.ly/gpdswine.