Making Nature Your Neighbor

We are all together in getting through these tumultuous times. It has become imperative to connect to, and experience Nature if physically or virtually. Throughout Northeast Ohio there are gems to enjoy that are “low risk”, can help you get that breath of fresh air that you deserve, and will connect you to the natural world in which we live. Join us as we continue our journey to explore sites throughout our region and get our weekly West Creek Wednesday: Nature Fix! Together, we’ll explore some well-known trails and hidden gems we think you’ll be excited to learn more about.

The Hike:  The West Woods Park in Newbury, Geauga County

Address: 9465 Kinsman Road (Rt. 87) – Novelty, Ohio 44072

N41 27.779, W81 18.252

Quarantine… Stay at home… Social Distancing…  Words and phrases that can make just about anyone a bit crazy!  One of the best ways to restore sanity is a nice walk in the woods.  So in early May, my daughter and I jumped in the car and headed to one of my favorite parks – Geauga Park District’s The West Woods Park in Newbury Township.  Being an amateur birder, I wanted a park with a diversity of habitats that would increase our chances for seeing the greatest number of bird species.  The West Woods is perfectly suited for this – with nine trails totaling close to seven miles in length that traverse a wide variety of habitats – from mature upland woods to cold water streams with beautiful floodplains and wetlands.

The West Woods is near and dear to me for another reason.  From 1999 to 2012, I served as Deputy Director of Geauga Park District.  One of the first parks I had a hand in helping to develop from soup to nuts was The West Woods.  The over 900 acre park was in jeopardy of being lost to development in the late 90s and would have been – had it not been for the foresight, leadership and financial assistance from Bill Ginn who pulled together The West Woods campaign.  Qualities similarly displayed by WCC board members, staff and supporters leading to hundreds of acres of preserved land every year.  We owe these pioneers and visionaries our thanks and gratitude for helping to protect such special places in our region.

My daughter and I chose Ansel’s Cave Trail for our hike.  The morning air was brisk and we were fortunate not many people were enjoying the park that morning.  It felt like the park was our private paradise.  The landscape was teaming with wildlife and the air was cacophonous with the sounds of birds singing – a good sign!  The hike along the natural trail traversing the upland woods was a welcomed reprieve from the four walls of our home quarantine.  We were fortunate that leaf out had not yet taken place in Geauga County – and multi-colored birds could be seen flitting from tree to tree.  Our list of birds grew – from the usual cast of characters to the migratory neotropical visitors moving through on their trip to distant northern locations.  Our heart rates quickened as we continued rising in elevation.  Outcroppings of that Sharon Conglomerate sandstone started to emerge along the trail.  After another rise and dip in topography, Ansel’s Cave began to appear on the trail ahead.  A truly impressive sight and experience (from the smell of moss and decaying leaf matter to the audible sounds of dripping water).

As we walked and talked, I could not help but to spew all the natural resource related trivia, facts and figures I have gleaned over the years from my mentors and dear friends from Geauga Park District – including former Director Tom Curtin and Chief Naturalist Dan Best.  Thanks guys for making me look truly impressive to my daughter!  As we slowly meandered back to our car, I could not help but be thankful for the beautiful region we live in and the many opportunities we have to enjoy nature through our impressive State and County park systems and preserves.  We had so much fun that we decided to venture on to Sunnybrook Preserve in Chester Township… but I will leave that for another edition of Nature Fix!

If you need a break from the novel situation we find ourselves in these days, take a trip to The West Woods Park – you will not be disappointed!  While there, make sure you stop in The West Woods Nature Center and spend some time viewing the impressive wildlife feeding station from the lobby and the many educational exhibits within the gallery.  The Nature Center is scheduled to open June 1st with social distancing.  It is truly worth the trip!

The West Woods Park: Our Hike: