Cline Farm Preserve

 

250 acres in Hocking County

Total Project Cost: $1,437,256
Balance to Raise: $40,100

 

The dramatic story of saving Cline Farm began with a phonecall from Nikki Spretnak.  Nikki had long been associated with the beloved children’s summer camp, Camp Wyandot, roughly 100 acres of land lying in the heart of Hocking Hills directly south of Clear Creek Metro Park. Founded 94 years ago under Camp Fire Girls, Camp Wyandot eventually separated and became its own independent camp, serving both boys and girls and developing its own unique camp experience.

The curriculum of Camp Wyandot is heavily infused with nature education. In addition to boating, archery, fishing, swimming, hiking, cooking over a fire, and sleeping out in the woods, children advance through six progressive levels of nature lore. A child may experience how to identify a walnut tree by its smell, pick out the major constellations in the sky, pop open and eat the seeds of touch-me-nots, use its sap as a salve for poison ivy, recognize the spicy scent of the wild ginger, and brew sassafras tea.

But the real glue that holds the camp experience together is song. Camp Wyandot has a thick book of original songs. There is a song for when you get up in the morning, a song for going to bed, and dozens to hike to. There is a good-bye song when the camp week is over, and a special song-for-life that is bestowed on every new counselor in training. There is even a spontaneous song the children sing to the cooks when they prepare a meal that is especially delicious.

The Camp’s Beloved Cline Farm comes up for sale. On the phone, Nikki explained that the Camp had been working for months to be able to buy and protect the 250 acres of contiguous land that, for decades, the Cline family had permitted the camp to use for their nature studies. Now that the land was for sale, if the Camp failed to buy it, the children’s access to it would be forever lost. Fortunately, the Cline family was fond of Camp Wyandot, and they were eager to see their farm preserved by Camp Wyandot into perpetuity. They really wanted to see the plan to succeed.

The leadership of Camp Wyandot had determined the best way to purchase the Farm was to seek Clean Ohio funding, and they had worked for months to prepare for a quality submission. But then, just weeks before the Clean Ohio deadline, they received the devastating news that children’s camps weren’t eligible applicants. The thought of losing Cline Farm was unbearable.

Nikki hastily brought the conversation around to its central purpose, “Would the Arc be willing to: partner with Camp Wyandot, submit the application to Clean Ohio, and, if the grant was awarded, maintain educational access to Camp Wynadot’s campers into perpetuity?

A Partnership is born. The rapidly approaching deadline for such a complex grant was daunting to us, but after seeing the property with our own eyes, we were smitten. Almost half of the woodlands on the property were true old-growth forests with towering hemlocks and oaks of immense girth. Wildflowers included the pink lady slipper and the rare primrose-leaved violet. Scattered on the borders of the property were breathtaking rock formations. The property included the long approach to an immense rock shelter known as Salt Peter Cave. Paradise, on the other hands, was a jumble of immense boulders dwarfed by the immense boles of hemlock trees rising above them.

Unquestionably Cline Farm needed to be preserved. If Camp Wyandot was unable be the agent of its protection, then our board and staff felt certain that the Arc had a moral obligation to try. The property was a perfect wildlands preservation project in every way but one. Although the land had sufficient road frontage, none of it afforded access. The roadsides were so steep that we couldn’t even park a small passenger truck, let alone a work truck and trailer. Camp Wyandot, however, reassured us that we could use their camp for parking and make our way into Cline Farm across their land. It would be a long walk for stewardship purposes, but we welcomed the offer.

A Clean Ohio Grant is rapidly prepared. The following weeks were tense as we tried to squeeze five months of work into less than one. While Andrea and I were writing and researching, Board President Rick Perkins succeeded in getting resolutions of endorsement from both the township trustees and the county commissioners. The grant was duly submitted, and then, all we could do was wait. A few months later, we received the dizzying good news that the grant was awarded! Cline Farm was heading to the closing table! Today, as I write, we only have a relatively small sum of money to raise for the project because, in this rare instance, Clean Ohio was able to the bulk of the funding.  The balance remaining to raise is listed above.

Hiking Trail installation in progress. The Arc’s master plan is to install a hiking trail on the Cline Fram property, as well as on the Honeycomb Rocks parcel.. Planning for the trail route is now complete and the trail-cutting phase is about to begin. Project completion is expected in late 2023. Trails will be open to the public with an easily accessed online hiking permit that will be prominently promoted on the Arc’s website and administered through Camp Wyandot. The preserve is already actively serving as an outdoor classroom for the children attending Camp Wyandot’s summer camps.

Belted Kingfisher. Photo by John Howard.

“Paradise” is an outcropping of Blackhand sandstone found at Cline Farm, one of the many outstanding rockscapes protected by the preserve.

View of Big Cola Swamp. Photo by Brian Blair.

Salt Peter Run, shown here, is a tributary of Clear Creek. It is the main stem of the 5.63 mile long network of headwater streams that flow to Clear Creek through the Cline Farm property.

Campers from Camp Wyandot at Cline Farm. Photo by Nikki Spretnak.

Cline Farm will enhance Camp Wyandot’s outdoor educational opportunities for its youth. Photo taken during a camp exploration of Salt Peter Run by Camp Wyandot volunteer, Nikki Spretnak.

Campers from Camp Wyandot at Cline Farm. Photo by Nikki Spretnak.

A view of Clear Creek looking west. Photo by Lewis Ulman.