My last couple of activations have been at West Branch State Park – K-1999. I mentioned back in January of this year that one week there were restrooms and picnic shelters and the next weekend they were all gone. As someone who frequents a park, it began to kind of eat at me. There had to be a reason.
The thing that sprung to mind as I spent more time out in the former picnic area this year was that they were perhaps allowing the area to re-wild itself. It didn’t seem likely that they were going to rebuild the restroom facilities given that they’d torn them out completely and it was as though they were never there. But there were still paths mowed around the – now very odd looking – parking area and out to the picnic table where I set up most of the time. Then again, what do I know about how State Parks operate? I looked online, but I couldn’t seem to find any mention of it or a plan for the park.
There was really only one thing to do and that was find some contact information and reach out to the park. I found the Park Manager’s email address and sent a query. The response was quick and wonderful.
I was told that the plan was to work within the new approach that Ohio DNR is taking with parks and the balance of facilities to wild land. The shelters that looked OK to me apparently weren’t in great shape and the restrooms were problematic. Given the usage patterns of the park and a desire to create more wild spaces, the plan is now to allow those areas to grow in with native plants and perhaps some trees. The areas will, of course, still be open to people who want to hike around and even picnic in the area, but they are going to concentrate funding around the marina and boat ramps. That all makes perfect sense to me! The park has always been about the reservoir and that’s where most people spend their time.
The selfish part of me also knows that with the shelters gone, there will be fewer people hanging out in those areas making it a more relaxing place for me to operate.
It was a relief to hear that my insticts were right and that the park is going to let things grow. Pollinators will be happy and so will the local bird population. It will be interesting to see the space fill in over the next couple of years.
Now, if it doesn’t rain, maybe I can get out there on the weekend and do an activation!