By Nikki Blankenship
Spring is in the air, and so is the smell of spring wild flowers. In effort to save the beautiful Southern Ohio wildlife, the Arc of Appalachia is taking on the largest land acquisition project in their history. Total they are looking to acquire eight properties, which will add 918 acres to Ohio protected lands. Several of the projects have already been completed including a large project in Otway — the Glady Riley Golden Star Lily Preserve. Gladys Riley creates a new and adds to an existing nature preserve in the Otway area, a preserve that protects a unique lily found only in two places across Ohio.
The Golden Star Lily Preserve is an 186 acre tract. The project expanded the existing preserve to include a 118 acre addition.
“Funding for the project came from Clean Ohio grant funding and support from donatios,” Kayla Henning, Arc representative stated when the project was finalizing.
The Gladys Riley Preserve is an effort to conserve the Golden Star Lily, which only grows in two places in Ohio, and only in significant numbers in one of them – the banks of the lower Rocky Fork tributary of Scioto Brush Creek. It was here in Scioto County that the Arc founded the first preserve for the Golden Stars in 2005, at that time a 67 acre refuge. The Golden Star Lily is a very rare flower in the world, having a spotty distribution and being restrained to the eastern-central states lying west of the Appalachians and east of the prairies. In Ohio, the Golden Star Lily is officially endangered. Purchase of the adjacent 118 acres tripled the preserve size and its holdings of Golden Star colonies, while also providing the first feasible trailhead for a public hiking trail at the site. Henning explained that the Arc would like to hold hikes and events at the preserve in order to introduce the public to all the 186 acres has to offer the public. The Friends of Scioto Brush Creek, a second non-profit, has gotten involved by volunteering to maintain the preserve in order to ensure it remains free and open to the public.
The preserve is remembering a strong women who impacted many local children in the area by giving them a reason to take care of local wildlife. According to the Arc website, Gladys Riley was a well-loved school teacher in Otway until she retired in 1972.
“She was an avid life-long lover of the outdoors. Having taught for many years in the first grade, she inspired many a schoolchild to follow a career or a vocation in natural resources,” the website stated. “She often took the young children on hikes, even though there weren’t many places available near the school to go. A bird and wildflower lover, she could make even the commonest goldfinch or dandelion magical for the children.”
The Arc of Appalachia is a non-profit, grassroots organization that started in the mid-1990s with the goal to protect the natural diversity of the Great Eastern Forest. Since that time, the organization has raised over $13 million for forest conservation. The Arc currently stewards fifteen preserve regions, operates three visitors centers, and teaches forest literacy courses. The Arc also works to accomplish forest preservation by buying forested land in key botanical “hotspots” and then slowly expanding those forests in size as funds for land procurement allow, allowing the woodlands to naturally age and diversify.
In addition to forest preservation, the Arc also preserves important associated Eastern ecosystems such as wetlands and native prairies, as well as ancient American Indian earthworks. The majority of the Arc of Appalachia’s preserves lie between the Scioto and the Ohio River on the Ohio-Kentucky border. As land is acquired, the Arc not only works on conservation but also works to connect people with nature by opening the preserves to the public and even added walking/hiking trails along some. The Arc has currently acquired 4272 acres and is working to acquire much more with a wildlands campaign that includes six separate projects and totaling 861 acres. Many of the properties are chosen because they are near a stream or creek, are the locations of endangered animals or plants, or have historical/cultural significance. Henning added that land is acquired through funds raised largely by donations.
Among these projects are The Ohio Hanging Rock Preserve, which will be a 600 acre conservatory with an entire hiking system, costing $717,373. The Arc has currently raised $123, 218. The Arc has never worked on a project this large. Even today, it wouldn’t be possible if the seller, the Conservation Foundation of America, had not been willing to offer the property at a substantial bargain sale. This beautiful Appalachian hill-country site in Scioto County near Otway has some of the most beautiful streams and lush wildflower displays we have ever seen in southeastern Ohio, which contributed to the selection of the land for preservation. The property also includes the large sandstone outcrops at the higher elevations, sheltering many uncommon plants, including Mountain Laurel, Rose Shell Azalea, Pink Lady Slipper, Feather Bells, and Yellow Crown Beard. Significantly, the tract is verified as summer hunting grounds for two federally endangered bats, the Northern Long Eared and the Indiana Bat; and it also shelters dense populations of worm-eating warblers – the signature bird of large unbroken forests in the East. The preserve was named for the many abandoned iron smelting furnaces found in the geological region and industry for which this forest once provided fuel. Later, the land was mined for high quality clay. The Arc’s plan is to install a trailhead and hiking trail system so that the cultural history and natural history of the area can be shared with the general public, with a goal of opening this year.
The Arc is also adding, expanding or has recently completed such preserves as Steel Earthworks, an archeological preserve in south-central Ohio; Whipple State Nature Preserve in Manchester; the new Glenford Fort Earthworks, which will be located in Perry County; and Highland Nature Sanctuary in Bainbridge.
The Arc also stewards other preserves such as Chalet Nivale, Chaparral Prairie, Hope Springs, Kamama Prairie, Morgan Fork, Ohio River Bluffs, Plum Run Prairie, Rock Run Wilderness, Samson Woods, and Serpent Mound.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.