Although most people are sheltering in place during the current health emergency, Ohioans are fortunate to have dozens of parks and nature preserves that are still open for visits.
State park lodges closed on March 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The system’s cabins, campgrounds, golf courses and most restroom facilities closed on Tuesday. But the park’s natural spaces and trails remain open.
State forests and nature preserves also remain open to visitors, said Andrew Lane Gibson, an assistant botanist at the state’s Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
And with spring finally dawning, those parks and preserves will offer a badly needed dose of beauty and a reminder of the resilience of life.
The state’s online Spring Wildflower Bloom Report debuted last week, offering weekly updates about which spring flowers can be seen at which state preserves. The report can be found at naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/wildflowers.
Gibson compiles the wildflower report with input from naturalists, preserve managers and others from around the state.
The report will be updated every Friday at least through mid-May, Gibson said.
“At a time like this, I think it’s more important than ever for people to get out and enjoy the state parks, forests and preserves,” he said. “You can only stay indoors for so long.”
The wildflower report “will really give Ohioans a good idea of where to go and what see,” he said.
The blooms move across the state from south to north, following spring warmth, Gibson said.
“There are already flowers blooming in Adams County and along the Ohio River,” he said.
Any of the nature preserves, state parks and forests in the counties along the Ohio River is a good place to see early bloomers now.
Species such as white trout-lily, harbinger-of-spring and yellow corydalis are blooming at Whipple, Davis Memorial and Shoemaker state nature preserves in Adams county.
Snow trillium, an early bloomer that is near its peak, can be seen, among other places, at Miller Nature Sanctuary State Nature Preserve in Highland County and, farther north, at Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve in Greene County.
As peak blooms slowly move north throughout the spring, nature preserve visitors can follow them with help from the wildflower report.
“I love to work in the southern part of the state and then move north,” Gibson said.
“The spring bluebells bloom and fade in the south but then you can see them again along Lake Erie. It’s like a second spring.”