History & Tourism

Summer Road Trips: ODNR Natural Resource Park Returns To The Ohio State Fair

23 Jul , 2022  

By 1812Blockhouse, Special to 1812Blockhouse from ODNR

This year we’re continuing our weekly look at unique events and attractions that are within an easy driving distance of Richland County. For the first time in two years, we’re sharing events taking place in-person, although by all means please all ahead and verify what social distancing, masking, etc. We call these Summer Road Trips.

Of course, we regularly feature the many extraordinary places to visit right here in Richland County and encourage our readers to get out and experience what is on offer in our own backyard.

Some days ago we posted about the upcoming Ohio State Fair. There’s more to that story this year.

The excitement of the great outdoors is back at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, thanks to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Families can find fun and free activities at the Natural Resources Park open to all in the southeast corner of the fairgrounds, every day from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

“People at the state fair may not realize how much outdoor adventure we have here in Ohio,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “That’s why we put it all in one place at the fair, letting people test their skills with a fishing rod or on the pond – and I hope this experience will inspire families to go out and discover all the amazing places we have all over the state!”

Children can stop by to receive a personal greeting from Smokey Bear before they go exploring. The current Smokey animatronic character was installed in 2015 and continues his mission to teach fairgoers how they can prevent wildfires. Directly behind Smokey is the 71-foot-tall fire tower, emphasizing the importance of fire safety.

A new attraction at the park will highlight Smokey Bear’s legacy at the Ohio State Fair, among other Ohio facts. The History Room, found at the pavilion, will take visitors on a journey through time – telling the stories of the Civilian Conservation Corps, notable women in ODNR’s history, and Ohio’s newest state park, Great Council State Park.

The Division of Parks and Watercraft is introducing a new Virtual Reality exhibit allowing visitors to paddleboard or kayak through some of Ohio’s most breathtaking water features. Participants will begin by choosing their watercraft and between the locations of Alum Creek, Lake Erie, Miami River, and the Ohio River. Guests will be fitted with life jackets, an Oculus headset and two controllers which simulate paddles. Video monitors will allow viewers to see what the participants are experiencing.

The Division of Parks and Watercraft has also added a brand-new nature center. Like what you’d see when visiting one of Ohio’s 75 state parks, the nature center will be home to live animals, interactive games, and educational information about Ohio’s wildlife. Located near the Division’s camper, yurt, and display about state park lodges, the nature center will be open to visitors throughout the day.

This year also marks the Ohio State Fair debut of the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas fully accessible playground. Children can navigate through a maze of towering barrels or search for fossils at this easy-access area that will provide amazing, and low impact entertainment.

Other new sights and sounds inside the Natural Resources Park this year include upgraded structures along the Division of Wildlife boardwalk and a restored wetland area where families can learn about Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative.

Visitors to the Natural Resources Park will get an up-close look at the park’s newest resident, a life-size sculpture of Dunkleosteus terrelli, Ohio’s State Fossil Fish. This sculpture, affectionately known as “Daphne,” is a recent addition to the Geological Walk-Through Time exhibit.

Popular attractions, including the kayak pond and youth fishing, will be brought back this summer. The amphitheater will come alive with free shows every day of the Ohio State Fair. Guests can anticipate the must see, Great Lakes Lumberjack Show, featuring chainsaw carving, log rolling, and a whole lot of laughs.

Educational opportunities are located throughout the Natural Resources Park. At the Scenic Rivers Touch Pond, visitors can learn about crayfish and small stream fish found throughout Ohio’s streams and rivers. Head over to the Butterfly House and witness the life cycle of around 400 butterflies. Or just walk along the pathways to learn about varieties of native trees found across the Buckeye State.

The ODNR information booth will offer natural resources literature, and the gift shop will showcase a wide array of souvenirs, clothing, and toys available for purchase including our State Parks Passport.

On the fair’s opening day will honor 11 people for their commitment to conservation of Ohio’s natural resources. The Ohio Natural Resources Hall of Fame program honors people – past and present – who have made significant contributions to preserving and protecting the state’s water, soil, woodlands, wildlife, and mineral resources. ODNR will also be handing out cardinal awards during a ceremony at the Natural Resources Park amphitheater. The public is invited to attend this event on July 27, 2022 at 4:30 p.m.

For more information about the ODNR Natural Resources Park or to check out the daily amphitheater schedule, visit ohiodnr.gov/statefair. For more information about the Ohio State Fair, visit ohiostatefair.com.

Image by icsilviu from Pixabay

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