Big Cola Swamp

 

61-acre wetlands in Hocking Hills

Total Project Cost: $634,700
Balance to Raise: $60,100

Saving a Wetlands in Hocking County. Between Laurelville and Rockbridge on Big Cola Road lies Big Cola Swamp, dissected by the half mile meanderings of Cola Creek. If you are a frequent visitor to the Hocking Hills, you have probably driven right by this property. Perhaps you noticed the shining waters of its wetlands, carpets of marsh marigolds emerging out of saturated soils, and skunk cabbage popping up right next to the roadside beneath sagging barbed wire fences. Despite generations of farmers earnestly draining and ditching the land to try to coax pastures out of the swamp, this old farm so badly wants to be WET.

Large areas of wetland habitat are scarce, especially in non-glaciated SE Ohio. This property includes a large area of existing high-quality wetland within the floodplain area, with additional areas that will be enhanced to be higher quality, and then preserved. Wetland species found here include Buttonbush, Alder, Swamp Rose, a variety of rushes and sedges, skunk cabbage, and sweet flag (Calmus).

Protecting the riparian corridor of an exceptional creek.  The 60.5-acre Big Cola Swamp includes a closed-canopy hardwood forest with rock outcrops and headwater streams, as well as over 1/2 mile along Big Cola Creek. The creek is classified by Ohio EPA as coldwater habitat, with pollution-sensitive sculpins and darters and other aquatic biota. This is the highest EPA designation for stream quality, and is rare in any part of the State, including in southeast Ohio.

Visitor Services Planned for Big Cola. The Arc intends to allow the public to visit Big Cola Swamp for wildlife viewing. A large picnic shelter already on the property will provide opportunities for educational programs to be held on-site.

An Advocate for Big Cola Swamp. Brian Blair is an Arc of Appalachia board member who is recognized across southern Ohio as being one of the region’s most active conservationists. After working 32 years for the Ohio EPA overseeing the cleanup of toxic waste sites, Brian can see the positive possibility in just about anything. He would much rather fix something than throw it away, whether that something be old trucks, antique furniture, or a tired and worn out farm.

Living only a short distance away, Brian has had his eye on this property for a good long while. Although the farm was mostly covered in non-native pasture grasses and slashed with drainage lines, Brian saw a potential in it that almost everyone else had missed. After decades of quietly watching and dreaming, the magical day came when he heard a rumor that the farm might be for sale. Brian knew that with the property’s location in Hocking Hills, its long road frontage on level ground, and multiple septic systems, its future was sealed for development. Unless, of course, a conservation group hurried in to buy it before it formally went up for sale. Knowing that Arc staff already had their hands full with the demands of multiple land acquisition projects, Brian offered to take on the project nearly single-handedly on behalf of the Arc. He volunteered his time to negotiate with the sellers, wrote a successful Clean Ohio grant to help fund its purchase, and offered to serve as long term restoration caretaker.

We are delighted to share the good news that Big Cola Swamp was successfully funded as an Arc of Appalachia Preserve and we are currently raising money for its stewardship. Big Cola is lucky to have found such a committed caretaker, and southern Ohio is lucky to have such a splendid wildlands advocate!

Belted Kingfisher. Photo by John Howard.
View of Big Cola Swamp. Photo by Brian Blair.
View of Big Cola Swamp. Photo by Brian Blair.
Blackhand sandstone, characteristic of Hocking Hills, is found scattered throughout Big Cola's upper woodlands.
Belted Kingfisher. Photo by John Howard.
Belted Kingfisher. Photo by John Howard.
Blackhand sandstone, characteristic of Hocking Hills, is found scattered throughout Big Cola's upper woodlands.
View of Big Cola Swamp. Photo by Brian Blair.