Last week, I had the opportunity to join Director Jim Zehringer of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) on a tour of some of Ohio’s state parks and wildlife areas in our district and the greater region of southwest Ohio. ODNR is a state agency with a vast array of responsibilities, from managing Ohio’s state parks to distributing hunting and fishing licenses to researching the state’s mineral resources.
Many people don’t realize just how many state parks and preservation areas Ohio has to offer! ODNR is responsible for the care, maintenance, and promotion of 74 state parks, 21 state forests, 136 state nature preserves, and 117 wildlife areas—encompassing over 590,000 acres of land. I would love to be able to visit each and every location, but I was lucky to spend the day with Director Zehringer touring multiple areas.
Our tour included Cowan Lake State Park, where we participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony marking recent renovations the park has undergone. The park is located minutes from my home, just outside of Wilmington, and it is a great attraction for families looking to spend time outside swimming, fishing, and more. During the 130th General Assembly, the state legislature worked with ODNR to allocate $88.5 million in funding for our state parks in the capital budget. A portion of this funding went towards cabin renovations at Cowan Lake State Park, and I was proud to witness the fruits of that labor at the ribbon cutting ceremony that opened those cabins for the public again.
Next, our day took us to Spring Valley Wildlife Area, and specifically to the area’s shooting range. The wildlife preservation, an 842-acre area made up of cropland, woods, a meadow, and a lake, has also recently undergone updates. It is well-known for hunting and fishing, but the shooting range is also popular. It is a family-friendly range that welcomes adults and children alike to learn shooting rules and regulations through proper gun safety and technique. It certainly makes for an educational day trip, and I was reminded of the valuable lessons that can be learned on the range.
While ODNR is made up of many diverse departments, the Division of Parks and Recreation works hard to maintain our state parks and give Ohioans a safe environment to enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. The division works to enhance the quality of life by promoting and encouraging a range of outdoor recreational experiences, and they do a great job. I truly enjoyed my day learning about the different preservation areas that ODNR manages, and I encourage you and your family to visit one of Ohio’s many parks soon!
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.