With a little imagination and some help from the Preservation Parks planning staff, I could envision the not-yet-open park.
Looking to the left, I saw wetlands that had become a new home for ducks and frogs. Walking trails wound around the wetlands and into a shady woodlot, and a picnic shelter close at hand hosted a family taking in the sights and sounds of nature.
To the left rose a hill that, in the winter, will be a sledding destination.
Stepping back into the present, my view was a little different.
Although the sky was blue and the air was warm, this recent walk in the future park was through an old farm field, filled with the early-spring tones of taupe and gray, and missing the green that was still wrapped up inside tiny tree buds. The field was a big, empty rectangle of flattened foliage, rimmed by some tree lines – not much to see.
But imagination – or, if you will, vision – will change all that.
Vision has been a driving force behind Preservation Parks for more than two decades. It's behind the acres of prairie developed in parks to improve habitat for pollinators and to delight people with eye-popping color. "Vision" also means that the public has access to the 40-foot shale cliffs at Shale Hollow Park and the ridges and ravines at Hogback Ridge Park. It's that vision that brought more than a half-million visitors to the parks last year and dozens of nature programs into schools.
Soon, imagination will bring to life two new parks in Delaware County to add to the nine Preservation Parks already open.
Hickory Woods Park is slated to open in the fall. Located between Pollock and Braumiller roads at the southeast corner of the city of Delaware, the future park will be 115 acres with trails, wildlife habitat, a large four-seasons shelter, a smaller open-sided picnic shelter, the aforementioned sledding hill, and an event field for park programs and public use.
Only some of that will materialize this summer; we'll open with trails and parking. The rest is on the horizon, as is another new park, this one in Orange Township. It doesn't yet have a name; we just call it the Alum Creek property for now.
Straddling Interstate 71 and Bale Kenyon Road south of the Alum Creek Reservoir dam, it's in a flood plain, and we do have the highway to work around.
But this 230-acre site, which will become a park in a few years, has access to Alum Creek, lovely woodlands full of wildflowers in the spring and some truly magnificent old trees all year.
Our vision includes reforesting many of the old farm fields at the site; in fact, by the end of this year, we'll have planted 41,000 seedlings and about 1,300 potted or balled-and-burlapped trees, transforming that area to woodland habitat that can house many, many species of native Ohio wildlife.
Imagination is the jumping-off point to so much. In Delaware County, it has led to improved wildlife habitat, protected waterways, nature education and beautiful parks.
And vision will keep that momentum going, far into the future.
Sue Hagan is marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks of Delaware County.