What do Ohio state parks mean to you? Even before stay-cations became popular, many Ohioans and visitors have found much to enjoy about our state parks. At least I thought they were "ours," although it seems they are being handed over to logging and oil/gas interests.
Words cannot express the dismay and shock I feel that in 2011 an administration of the state of Ohio would take aim for state park forests that have been growing ever since the land for that particular park was acquired by the state.
Former administrations and legislatures with a vision for the state and an understanding of conservation and the need to set aside lands for Ohioans and visitors to our state to enjoy for recreational purposes as well as to enjoy the tranquility and restorative powers that a walk in the woods provides have protected these lands.
These woodlands are all recovering from having been logged in the past and it will take many years for them to reach the stage of old growth that will provide exceptional habitat for all native wildlife which is important in itself but also makes them more interesting for wildlife observers. To fragment the forest that is left by haul-roads for any purpose would be a shame. It is obvious that none of the legislators earn their income from wildlife- or conservation-based or even tourist-related businesses.
Landowners who manage their woodlands as a working forest and plan to derive income from timber sales may not welcome this kind of competition.
Shortly after World War II, when family camping trips took us throughout the country to learn from and enjoy the differences in geology, wildlife and plants, my father always compared state parks in other states to the those in Ohio. Ohio parks had good forest cover as well as well laid-out campgrounds, trails through the forests and nature programs that were basic to a good family experience long before many other states.
It might occur to one to wonder whether, for some people, the state park-designation was seen as a lock-box to protect the ever-increasing board-foot value of the trees until an administration and legislature were in place that would ignore the investment made in and enjoyment derived from those forests by Ohioans for so many years.
Even if every cent of income from oil, gas and timber went back into the park system without the usual administrative fees usually charged, improved infrastructure simply would not make up for the loss of forest-cover that either drilling or logging would cause.
The administration and legislature are proposing to break faith with all those who invested time, effort and money in Ohio state parks up to the present.
Once again, Ohio's resources are being squandered without even the safeguards and protective regulations that surrounding states have for lands with lesser levels of protection. I urge all those you enjoy our state parks to let their legislatures and the governor know we expect them to manage the parks for wildlife and for our enjoyment.
Marilyn Ortt of 701 Colegate Drive, Marietta, is a member of the Marietta City Tree Commission. Our Earth appears on alternate weeks in the weekend edition.