New foundation aims to enhance Ohio’s state parks

John Bryan State Park and its limestone gorges are just a mile away from Yellow Springs. STEPHANIE O’GRADY/OHIO DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
John Bryan State Park and its limestone gorges are just a mile away from Yellow Springs. STEPHANIE O’GRADY/OHIO DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

First project: making parks more accessible

Thousands of Ohioans turned to the state’s parks for respite during the coronavirus pandemic, and now residents can be part of improving those parks.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently announced the formation of a new Ohio State Parks Foundation. The nonprofit will partner with individuals, corporations and other entities to revamp and preserve Ohio’s 75 state parks.

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“Ohioans place great value on the outdoors,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said. “Whether they are spending a night under the stars or hooking a fish, people truly enjoy spending time in Ohio’s state parks. It’s wonderful that Ohioans can now be part of making them even better through this Foundation.”

The foundation’s first project will make parks more accessible. For people with limited mobility, such as those who use a wheelchair or mobility devise, accessible launch ramps, kayaks and accessories will be made available at select park locations so more people can enjoy the parks’ waterways. All-terrain wheelchairs designed for the safe navigation of uneven surfaces will also be purchased to make trails more accessible.

For visually impaired trail-users, Braille signs and physical aids like guide ropes will be added to select trails.

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The founding members of the foundation include:

  • Fran Buchholzer, former director of ODNR and conservation advocate.
  • Clyde Gosnell, military veteran, retired architect, education and conservation advocate, and founder of related organizations.
  • Dr. Marcia Latta, vice president of university advancement at the University of Findlay.
  • H. C. Buck Niehoff, retired attorney and author.
  • Keith Shumate, attorney and chairman of the board at The Columbus Zoo and The Wilds.
  • Bob Taft, former governor of Ohio.

“Ohio is truly blessed with wonderful parks across the state,” Shumate said. “I am delighted to be part of an organization whose mission is to improve and protect the parks in the state of Ohio, thereby ensuring even greater access and enjoyment by all.”

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Most Ohioans live within an hour’s drive of one of Ohio’s 75 state parks, which don’t charge a fee to enter.

Residents stayed an additional 72,698 nights in Ohio state park cabins and campgrounds between June 2020 and October 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, according to ODNR. A record number of Ohioans registered paddle craft and purchased hunting and fishing licenses in 2020.

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