Take a walk with the wildflowers

JERUSALEM, Ohio — Area residents have an opportunity this weekend to take a walk on the wild side, without heading to an exotic, faraway locale.

The ninth annual Wildflower Walk will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Captina Preserve in Belmont County. The starting point for the walk is on property at 55800 New Castle Road, which is about 5 miles north of Jerusalem, Ohio. The free event is organized by the Captina Conservancy.

The theme for this year’s walk is “Rediscover Your Childhood.” Organizers hope the event will provide a sense of discovery. Participants can view wildflowers that they may not have seen for many years, while introducing children to the joys of nature.

“It’s a family walking and driving kind of experience,” said Daniel Caron, a nature photographer and volunteer with the conservancy. “It’s a very easy walk.”

The event offers a sense of exploration and discovery.

“It’s really very exciting, and we really hope people avail themselves of this opportunity,” he said. “That kind of excitement is something that can be contagious and be something for young people.”

Generally, the walk lasts a couple of hours, but participants don’t have to stay for the entire time. The group will walk no more than two miles at a relatively slow pace. Visitors will be able to have a picnic at the site after the walk.

Abbey Hayward, executive director of the Captina Conservancy, said the site changes from year to year, with this year’s walk taking place in a relatively flat area on private property. The event will happen rain or shine, she said.

“There are few things as joyful to me, after a long, brown and cold winter, than to go out and see something springing from the ground,” said Caron, a longtime nature enthusiast.

Local naturalists will be on hand to show walkers how to identify various types of flowering plants. “We want people to be able to identify wildflowers so they will understand what they’re seeing,” she said.

Caron commented, “It’s a really beautiful experience being down at the Wildflower Walk and along the creek and into Raven Rocks … It’s a pristine, beautiful place.”

Hayward agreed, adding, “Because it’s so rural in the area, wildflowers still have that natural habitat.”

The preserve is home to “a real variety of very beautiful wildflowers,” Caron said. “They are up in a short window, depending on the particular species.”

Given the unpredictability of the blooming season, “we’re not sure what we’ll see,” Hayward said, adding, “You’ll definitely see a bunch of things.”

Caron remarked, “We try to time this (walk), but nature is the final decider of what will happen.”

Two years ago, one of the walk’s guides found yellow trout lily, a flower that may take up to eight years to bloom, Caron said.

Visitors are likely to see hepatica, a native Ohio species that is one of the first-appearing wildflowers of spring, he said. This flower may be seen in different color variations.

Noting another beautiful aspect about this walk, he said, “It’s a tremendous place to see trillium.” The area is home to three or four color varieties of trillium.

“In more rural areas, people will see more clusters of wildflowers at different times of year,” he said.

Captina Conservancy board members and volunteers also regard the walk as an educational tool.

“We want to alert people and make them aware of the necessity of preserving this place,” Caron said.

He would like to see a Captina Wildflower Festival develop eventually.

“Other parts of the country have big festivals,” he said.

Events such as wildflower and bird walks attract people who are ecologically conscious.

“If people see this, I think they’ll have that same mindset and interest to keep this place pristine and available for future generations,” he said.

“The conservancy also is interested in getting more land owners who want their property to open to the public,” Hayward said.

With an easement, these lands are protected under Ohio law.

Prior to joining the conservancy recently, Hayward served as watershed coordinator for the Belmont Soil and Water Conservation District.

Established in 2010, the Captina Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust working to conserve natural and agricultural lands in Belmont County. It undertakes or assists in land or conservation easement acquisition and is engaged in stewardship of such land or easements.

The Captina Creek Watershed drains the southern third of Belmont County and extreme northern areas of Monroe County. The mouth of the creek is located on the Ohio River at Powhatan Point.

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