Access to hidden gem Butler County preserve expands with new boardwalk

Nestled across Bonham Road from Miami University’s Yager Stadium and the sprawling athletic complex is a serene piece of natural space known as the Helen Ruder Preserve.

It has now been made more accessible with a wooden boardwalk so even those with limited mobility can reach a natural spot they can enjoy.

The site is the only property owned outright and kept by the Three Valley Conservation Trust, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to formally open the boardwalk Oct. 6.

The land was donated to the trust by the daughters of Helen Ruder, who died in 1977. The house had been purchased by Doctors Ellen and Gerald Buerk but the 13-acre natural site was donated to the trust in 1996. It was the first property acquired by the trust and its first protected property.

Mark Boardman serves as chair of the Three Valley Conservation Trust board of directors and was heavily involved in work done at the preserve in recent years.

“For me, it’s just a nice place to come and sit and let my blood pressure go down,” Boardman said. “I hope it excites people to like nature and want to preserve areas like this.”

The Ruder Preserve includes original forest ringed by a running path with the boardwalk now entering from the parking lot and winding through the trees to a resting area with several benches. Boardman said it is designed to be ADA compliant and wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass going in opposite directions.

Construction started in April 2018 and continued into this year with the help of 175 people who have helped build, sand and stain the 220-foot section. Cost was approximately $6,000, which included donations of various items and a favorable cost reduction and free delivery from Butler County Lumber.

Boardman said the property had originally been part of a large forest area.

“Years ago, the trees were cleared for farming and there were fences,” he said. “There are no really, really old trees—maybe 80 years.”

The land was originally farmed by the Roll family and was the location of a house built in 1938 by Ernst M. and Helen Stemen Ruder, who had moved to Oxford from Hamilton the year before. Ernst Ruder was president of the National Bank of Southwest Ohio in Hamilton. The Colonial Revival House was built on North Patterson Avenue, in the Shadowy Hills subdivision with a commanding view of the Four Mile Creek valley.

The Ruders raised three daughters—Margaret, Anne and Elizabeth. Anne Ruder married James Bever in 1946 and they had a son, Ernst Bever, who lived in the house with his mother in 1952, while James Bever did geological research in the Rocky Mountains.

The three sisters donated the land for the preserve, which is named in their mother’s honor.

Entrance to the land is off of Shadowy Hills, 200 feet from Bonham Road.

Anyone interested in donating or learning more about the Three Valley Conservation Trust can call 513-523-2150. The office is in the Professional Building at 5995 Fairfield Road and their web site is

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