New Nature Preserve Showcases Big Darby Headwaters

​The Nature Conservancy and its partners celebrated Earth Week Saturday by opening a new nature preserve to the public. The event included guided walks, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and remarks by representatives of The Nature Conservancy, Honda of America Mfg., Inc. and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA). The 800-acre Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve, located primarily in Logan County, features a handicapped-accessible footpath and is open year-round for public recreation. The trail is designed and constructed to have minimal impact on this sensitive ecological area, and includes interpretive signs showcasing the scenic beauty and importance of the Big Darby to people and wildlife. The new preserve is at the headwaters of the Big Darby Creek – the place where the Big Darby becomes a permanent stream – and it highlights a major initiative by the Nature Conservancy to restore the natural stream flow of the Big Darby. In addition to conserving 800 acres around the headwaters, the project protects wetlands and floodplain habitat throughout the preserve and benefits water quality downstream. “Here in the Headwaters, the Big Darby Creek is a small, unassuming stream. But what happens here affects water quality and wildlife habitat for miles downstream,” said Jo Ann Barefoot, chair of The Nature Conservancy’s Board of Trustees in Ohio. “The cleaner, healthier water that will flow from this preserve will make its way to the Scioto River, the Ohio River basin and all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.” The project, at least 10 years in the making, is made possible through a combination of public and private support, including: • $2.6 million in public money approved by the Ohio EPA and US EPA, • the generous support ($465,000 over the past 10 years) of Honda of America Mfg. Inc., a neighbor to this project, and • a $1.4 million bequest and other private donations “The most amazing thing about this project, is that we have a newly created preserve which is part of a unique ecosystem and located within a stone’s throw of a large manufacturing facility,” said Chris Korleski, Ohio EPA Director, who helped cut the ribbon at the event. “This project is a model for the compatibility between a strong manufacturing sector and environmental protection.” Tom Shoupe, senior vice president for Honda, also participated in the ribbon-cutting. “Honda of America has worked in partnership with The Nature Conservancy for more than 10 years to protect, conserve and restore the unique Big Darby Creek headwaters, and the company’s Honda Hero volunteers have supported those efforts by assisting with clean-up activities.” “Honda strives each day to be a company that society wants to exist, and a big part of this desire starts with being a good steward of the environment,” Shoupe said. “This isn’t just good for the environment; it’s good for our families, our communities and our business. Honda will continue to remain at the forefront of environmental activities by collaborating and learning from environmental leaders like the Nature Conservancy.” The Big Darby Creek is a state and national scenic river that is widely recognized as one of the most biologically diverse streams for its size in the Midwest. The Darby watershed – part of the larger Lower Scioto River Basin – encompasses 560 square miles and provides habitat for at least 100 species of fish and 44 species of mussels. Thirty-eight rare species have been recorded in the watershed, including 15 fish and 23 mussels. Because of the continuous groundwater flow to the area, the Big Darby Headwaters include coldwater fish species such as central mottled sculpin, southern redbelly dace, and least brook lamprey, very unusual for streams in this region. The trail, within the Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve, allows for about a ¾ mile round trip walk and meets the guidelines for wheelchair accessibility. A second phase of the trail to add about 1½ to 2 miles will be constructed after the restoration of the stream is completed. Design and construction of Phase 1 of the trail was accomplished in a way that should ensure that the trail does not have a negative impact on the ecology of the preserve. The observation platform and boardwalk are constructed of heavy-duty recycled plastic timbers supported by steel piers to eliminate the use of chemically treated lumber in the sensitive stream and wetland area. To avoid erosion, the trail is laid out along the natural contours of the land and a reasonable distance is maintained between the trail and the creek except where the trail crosses a tributary. The parking lot and trail are made of a permeable stone surface to minimize runoff, yet can support wheelchair traffic. The work at the Big Darby Headwaters has come to fruition, but is far from over, Barefoot said, in her remarks. “It is my hope that 30 years from now, the children in this crowd will bring their children to this site, and will see a naturally-functioning headwaters system doing its part to keep the Big Darby Creek one of the Last Great Places on Earth.” Visit Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have protected more than 119 million acres and 5,000 river miles around the world. In Ohio, the Conservancy works with partners to preserve some of the best forest, wetland, stream and grassland habitat in the state.
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