Arc of Appalachia, a nonprofit grassroots group that acquires and stewards wildlands in southeastern Ohio, is fundraising to save a 108-acre plot of land adjacent to Hocking Hills State Park. The land was originally slated to harvest timber, but fundraisers hope it will soon become a nature preserve.
A 108-acre plot of wooded wildlands near Hocking Hills State Park could soon become southeast Ohio’s newest wildlife preserve if enough money is raised.
Arc of Appalachia, a nonprofit grassroots group that acquires and protects wildlands across Appalachian Ohio, launched an emergency fundraising campaign to save a plot of wooded property near the state park.
The plot, referred to by fundraisers as the Ash Cave Eastern Reserve, is located near the southeast corner of the state park and is next to Ash Cave. The short-term fundraising campaign to buy the land ends Sept. 1.
The property, which is listed at $435,000, was last purchased a few years ago to harvest its timber, said Kirt Manecke, a volunteer with Arc of Appalachia. But when the current landowner had an opportunity to purchase his family’s farm, the “for sale” sign went up, and Arc of Appalachia jumped on the opportunity.
“This is one property worthy of protecting in this area of Hocking Hills that is pretty quickly being developed,” said Brian Blair, an Arc of Appalachia board member and Hocking County resident.
The property shares a lot of features of the Hocking Hills region that draw visitors to the area, Manecke said. Mature cedar, oak, hickory and hemlock trees cover the forest. Its deep ravines and rock shelters remind visitors of Hocking Hills State Park’s own impressive landscapes.
If the group is successful in purchasing the property, the plan is to transform it into a nature preserve, Blair said. Compared to the attractions near Ash Cave, he said there would be more restrictive access to the preserve to protect its biodiversity.
Arc of Appalachia would build several trails throughout the property, and visitors could reserve times to come and explore. The preserve would host hikes and special events, and Blair said the organization hopes to organize an annual fall hike from the preserve to Ash Cave and back.
“We want to make sure that there wouldn’t be big crowds so we could protect the land a little better, rather than being open all the time,” Blair said.
Arc of Appalachia stewards nearly 7,000 acres of land across 19 preserves throughout southern and southeastern Ohio.
The campaign had raised more than $309,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. With six days left to go, Blair and Manecke said they hope donors will raise the last bit of funds.
If the total amount isn’t raised, Blair said Arc of Appalachia will work to secure the rest of the funds somehow.
“We don’t want to let this one slip away,” Blair said. “It’s a real jewel.”