It was almost all about the BS.
Well, the first day was…after that, it was about the amazing new horizons for the Portage County Park District, now that it’s got funding and the ability to actually plan and carry out plans for the benefit of Portage County residents. Here’s what the BS was about.
Mantua’s Art on the Hill event had wine and food trucks/establishments, artisans and crafters of all stripes, organizations and activities—the string quartet was particularly nice, contests and raffles, great weather and an enthusiastic crowd. It also segued into a dedication—actually a rededication—of a plaque mounted on a boulder, marking the Mantua Swamp as an “illustration of the nation’s natural heritage”—a National Natural Landmark (Try saying that rapidly a couple of times), as designated by the National Park Service ( Which, by the way is celebrating its centennial this year. More on that later), a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. So there. It’s a Swamp.
Not twenty feet away, also at the corner of Peck and Mennonite roads, where the Headwaters Trail goes by, heading for either Garrettsville or Mantua, there is a rather rustic sign pointing out that this is the location of the Mantua Bog, a State Nature Preserve under the jurisdiction of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. Take that! It’s a Bog.
So is it a bog or is it a swamp? B or S? None of the dignitaries in attendance—Lisa Petit of the NPS, Leo Acosta of the National Natural Landmarks crowd, Jeff Johnson of the ODNR, Chris Craycroft of the Portage Park System, Charlie English, Kim of the DMRC, Greg Balierz–went out on a limb to specify. Adam Wohlever, local dude of the ODNR, who led the hike to view some of the more accessible features of the place, confided that it was actually a fen, and proceeded to explain a whole lot about the differences between a bog, a swamp and a fen and the glacial antecedents of the whole situation, geologically speaking.
He also pointed out some of the interesting local flora—plants– and fauna–animals (well, there was a toad or two)—as the hike progressed. Hikers got to take the steps up on the small viewing platform about halfway through to look out over all of the green, gooey landscape and to ask questions all of the way along. One would be ill-advised to step too far off the beaten path into the bog…swamp…er…fen, but it certainly was interesting. Flowers, fungi, leaves, trees…fascinating, all of it.
One would also be ill-advised to sit down on a log to fix one’s shoes without checking the vegetation first; those “leaves of three” are native to the place too (I’m still waiting for the appearance of a rash; none so far).
O.K., that was Saturday. Sunday, it was another story out in the wilds.
Sunday was the opening of the latest, newly-accessible part of the Portage County Park District, the Morgan Preserve off St. Rte 44 in Shalersville Twp. It was a goodly crowd in attendance, some fifty-plus or so. The weather, again, was fine, if on the warm side. Parks director, Chris Craycroft, introduced staff members and other movers-and-shakers like Chuck Englehart, Judge Berger and the chair of the Portage Parks Foundation board.
Attendees got to hear a brief history of the preserve, beginning with its acquisition by local entrepreneur, Burton D. Morgan, for his grand project to incorporate the then-unused land of the Arsenal into a proposed jetport and industrial park encompassing much of the center of Portage County—with Ravenna, Freedom, Shalersville townships, for starters. Fierce opposition was aroused and the plan came to naught, in the end. The Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation became the owners of the property, maintaining some agricultural usage but primarily holding the area in preservation mode until the Portage Park District Foundation and its co-operating partners ,such as the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the Ohio EPA and Clean Ohio could put together the funding for the acquisition of the area. The two Morgan foundations were key elements in the plan, as well.
With the passage of the Portage County levy providing reliable funding—up to this point, it was a hard-scrabble existence of fundraisers, donations and volunteers—Phase One of development began. Over-all planning is still going on, trails are being opened, needs are being assessed. “We’ve come a long way, Baby”…but there’s more to come. Watch for it.
Seven worthy individuals stepped up to the green-and-gold ribbon across the main trail entrance, seven pairs of scissors swung into position and with the countdown…three…two…one!…SNIP! It was done. Hikers in twos and threes, families and singles headed out for their inaugural stroll through the latest in an outdoor adventure for Portage County. More to come.