XENIA — Something really big is happening in Greene County and if you like the great outdoors, hiking, and nature then you’re are going to really love this.
First of all, if you didn’t already know, Greene County has one of the best wetlands systems in the midwest right here in our own backyard. It’s called the Beaver Creek Wetlands and it’s an incredible group of 11 wetland properties that span the length of two connecting scenic waterways; the Little Beaver Creek and Beaver Creek.
But better yet, it’s going to get much bigger better and even more connected and accessible than ever.
A newly proposed 15-mile trail will connect all 11 of these wetland properties in addition to several more properties and newly acquired property along this wetland corridor stretching from Pearls Fen in Fairborn to Beavercreek Station in Beavercreek.
The proposed 15 mile trail system will traverse along natural curves of the Beaver Creek Wetlands corridor revealing beautiful vistas and memorable backgrounds while allowing up-close, personal experiences.
This new Wetlands pathway will be called the “The Spotted Turtle Trail” and construction has just started. It is projected to take five years to complete the entire project and the work will be divided into seven phases. The current cost estimate for the project is $7.5 million with funds being acquired through partner contributions and grants but mostly through volunteer hours and donations.
The Spotted Turtle Trail will eventually connect, upon completion, an incredible 18 wetland properties (parks, preserves, prairies, fens, and reserves along the wetlands corridor) and their existing trails. New trails will be added connecting all 18 wetland properties giving access to previously unseen isolated areas and natural features of these fantastic properties, creating what one may describe as a virtual “Hiking Highway.” This is an unprecedented undertaking, truly creating a Wetlands “Mega-Trail” and a new regional eco-tourism hiking, nature viewing and bird watching destination.
Each park or preserve within this 2,300 acre wetland corridor will see a variety of enhancements in this five-year project including: improving existing trails, fixing current bridges, and constructing many new and exciting features including new trails, boardwalks, bridges, information kiosks, and more.
Phase I — new features
Phase I is currently just underway with a number of enhancements slated for Beaver Creek Wetlands Nature Preserve, Phillips Park, and Rotary Park as well as adjacent land north of the parks.
Exciting new features will be added such as new bridges, two viewing platforms, an observation deck, new access points, restored Native Prairie, and two Wayfinding and information Kiosks. All will provide a premier outdoors, hiking and, educational destination for the local area and region.
“We just recently received a $476,000 Clean Ohio grant that will greatly help towards this project,” said Dave Nolin, President of the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association. “In addition to covering most of the cost of acquiring 58 acres of addition wetlands, the grant money will go towards the construction of the base of the boardwalk systems. From there our volunteers will nail on the walking planks, which actually saves a lot of money.”
Nolin, who was out on one of the wetland trails scouting out the location of a new observation platform said they were also in the process of acquiring 58 acres of new wetlands property upstream of Phillips Park.
Nolin also noted the value of having great partners associated with their organization and this project.
“We couldn’t do this without our incredible partners including the Greene County Parks & Trails who have already upgraded some existing trails and have nearly completed one of the new observation platforms for this project,” he said.
The Beaver Creek Wetlands Association (BCWA) is a nonprofit volunteer organization and was founded in 1988 with a vision to protect and promote the wetlands.
The association has done a stellar job over the years with a majority of the wetlands now protected. Much of the wetlands though are not readily accessible for management and public enjoyment and that’s where their new 15-Mile Spotted Turtle Trail will fill that void.
The BCWA is supported by many dedicated volunteers and many collaborative partners including; Greene County Parks & Trails, City of Fairborn, Beavercreek Township, City of Beavercreek, ODNR Divisions of Wildlife and Natural Areas, Tecumseh Land Trust, Little Miami Conservancy, B.W. Greenway Community Land Trust, and many more.
If you’ve ever wanted to help cut out a new hiking trail, build a bridge or boardwalk trail now is your chance. Many additional volunteers are needed to complete this project in various areas such as helping with building boardwalks, trails, fundraising, community outreach, and planting of native flora.
Donations are also needed from the community which will support construction of benches, signs, boardwalks, trails, bridges, and more.
To volunteer or donate contact http://www.beavercreekwetlands.org/trailproject.htm.
Ron Brohm is a freelance writer for Greene County News.