SWANTON — Beginning this past February, Oak Openings Metropark put up detours on the Evergreen and Silver trails and on the horse trail.
The reason was so that Metropark employees could remove about 50 acres of past their prime pine trees.
“These trees were planted from the 1930s to 1970s, with the idea of stopping erosion,” said Scott Carpenter, Director of Public Relations for the Toledo Metroparks. “It was a conservation project that was state of the art for its day and there was also thought of selling some of the trees at Christmas, but that never materialized.
“But the trees were also planted in such a way that they didn’t have room to thrive. The trees were aging and some were collapsing, so we took a proactive approach to remove the trees.”
While the process of tearing down the trees is finished, there are still detours on some of the trails, because removing the trees, including stump removal, is an ongoing process. Carpenter said that a logging company has been hired to remove the stumps.
While plans were immediately put into place for the pine tree removal process, there were some glitches.
I ran into one of those, early on, when a sign detoured me from the silver trail, onto the yellow marked hiking trail.
The problem was that either I missed one of the signs, or it was not there, to put me back onto the silver trail. I was familiar with Oak Openings enough that when the trail got close to Reed Road, that it was time to get off and walk back to my car.
Otherwise, I would have been walking much of the 16-mile hiking trail, as opposed to the three mile long silver trail. Fortunately, there is no longer a detour to the yellow hiking trail.
There are still a couple of short detours on the silver trail and Carpenter said that those detours could become a permanent part of the silver trail.
So, once the pine trees have completely been removed, what is the plan for those suddenly-open 50 acres of land?
“We want to restore them into open prairie areas,” Carpenter said. “These will be great for wildlife, particularly the pollinators, which have been in sharp decline. It could also open up areas for rare plant life. Oak Openings is already home to to more rare species of plants than anywhere else in Ohio.”
According to an Ohio DNR map, there are 161 rare plants in Lucas County, much of which can be attributed to Oak Openings, which resides in Lucas County. The next areas that are remotely close to that number is Portage County with 124, Summit County with 115 and Adams County with 113.
“Prairies are a whole different habitat, with a greater variety of wildlife and plants,” Carpenter said. “Though it could take some time for a full prairie, these areas tend to bounce back very quickly.”
Carpenter said there are also areas of the park where pine trees are doing well and there are no plans to remove those.