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GREENSPACE GEMS

Greenspace Gems recognizes and celebrates natural areas in the Green Umbrella region with outstanding scenic value, biological diversity, scientific importance, or historic interest. By telling the stories of these protected places, we hope to grow public support for greenspace conservation and the organizations who are leading this work in our region.

Greenspace Gems were selected by a team of conservation experts to reflect unique natural sites in our region. The team strives to highlight places that represent the geographic spread of Green Umbrella's 10-county region while showcasing a diversity of interesting features: from geology to biodiversity to plant communities to history. Each site tells a story of people taking action to protect a natural resource.

Indiana

Oxbow Nature Conservancy

Dearborn County, Indiana

Oxbow Lake formed in 1847 when floodwaters of the Great Miami River cut a new channel, isolating a meander in the abandoned riverbed. The lake and surrounding floodplain support a wetland/farmland population of more than 290 species of birds, 65 species of butterflies, 472 species of vascular plants, and 66 species of fish. Thousands of migrating birds pass through each year.

Protected by Oxbow Inc. 

In 1985, when industrial development threatened Oxbow Lake and adjacent lands, Oxbow, Inc. formed as a land-trust conservation organization and began purchasing the property. The organization now protects 2.5 square miles of the floodplain.

The protected property lies near the confluence of the Great Miami and Ohio Rivers. From exit 16 on I-275, travel 200 yards south on U.S. Route 50, turn left onto the road between the Shell/Subway and Waffle House, right at the end of the road, and left into the Oxbow, Inc. property.

Glidewell Mound

Franklin County, Indiana

The Glidewell Mound is one of the surviving Native American earthworks in our region. Adena people built this oval-shaped mound on a promontory overlooking the Whitewater Valley about 2100 years ago. Later cultures also used it. Excavations beginning in the late nineteenth century found several Hopewell burials and copper grave goods. The earthwork is located about mid-way around the two-mile “short loop” Glidewell Trail in the Mounds State Recreation Area. The trail winds through mature second-growth upland forest with views of the lake.

Protected by Indiana Department of Natural Resoucre

The mound, named for an early landowner, is a preserved feature in the Brookville Lake–Whitewater Memorial State Park Complex. The federal government purchased the area for flood control, wildlife, and recreation. Brookville Lake filled after construction of a dam in 1974, and IDNR now manages the area surrounding it.

The trailhead is next to a gravel parking lot near the end of Mounds Beach Road off State Route 101.

Kentucky

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

Boone County, Kentucky

The birthplace of American paleontology The lick has several salt springs that attracted mastodons, mammoths, and other Ice Age mammals to the site. The discovery of the animals’ large skeletal remains at the location led to the naming of Big Bone Lick in the eighteenth century. A diorama recreates the ancient scene, and there are hiking trails and a museum. Paved, wheelchair-accessible trails lead to viewing points.

Protected by Kentucky State Parks

In a fund-raising effort during the 1950s, citizens of Boone and Kenton Counties, including thousands of school children, collected money to purchase the land and protect it. Ownership transferred to Kentucky State Parks in 1960, and state funds have been used to expand it several times.

The site is located three miles off the intersection of State Route 338 and US Route 42.

Dinsmore Woods Nature Preserve 

Boone County, Kentucky

This 107-acre natural area is adjacent to the historic Dinsmore Homestead (1842). The preserve has a 1.7-mile walking trail, old-growth forest, and a population of the endangered native species, running buffalo clover. The deeply-entrenched remnants of a pre-1800 buffalo trace, on which the animals traveled from the Licking River mouth to the Big Bone Lick salt springs, runs beside the trail at the preserve entrance and contains a length of the trail upslope.

Protected by Boone County Parks

In 1985, Mrs. Martha Breasted donated the land to The Nature Conservancy. In 2010, Boone County used proceeds from the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund to purchase the preserve from the Conservancy.

From I-75 (Florence-Burlington exit 181) go west on Route 18 for 10.5 miles. The preserve entrance is on the right, just past the Dinsmore Homestead. Park at Middle Creek Park parking lot, directly across the road from the entrance trailhead.

Gunpowder Creek Nature Preserve

Boone County, Kentucky

This 122-acre preserve supports about 300 species of plants. The park features a graveled nineteenth-century logging trail that travels from an elevation of 830 feet to 620 feet and ends in a riparian woods along wide and rocky Gunpowder Creek. The stand of oaks on the northern hillside is one of the best remaining undisturbed areas of oak woodland in the region. The channel of the creek runs through alternating layers of shale and limestone.

Protected by Boone County Parks 

This was formerly the retreat and research farm owned by inventor George Sperti (1900-1991). Boone County purchased the property with the assistance of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund.

From Washington Street (KY 18) in Burlington, go south on East Bend Road (KY 338) approximately one mile, turn left on Hanover Boulevard, turn right on Sperti Lane, and continue to the parking lot.

St. Anne Woods and Wetlands

Campbell County, Kentucky

Situated along the Ohio River in Melbourne, Kentucky, St. Anne Woods and Wetlands’ 164 acres of wetlands and mature forests are home to rare flora and fauna. The site’s lowland and upland forests hold a diversity of tree species, while wetlands contain water-filled depressions that provide a rich habitat for a variety of species. Previously the property of St. Anne Convent, the site has served as a beacon of research and education for over a century. Today faculty and students of Northern Kentucky University and Thomas Moore College conduct ecological studies on site.

Protected by Campbell County Conservation District

In 2013, the Campbell County Conservation District purchased the land with a grant from the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund. A conservation easement held by the Commonwealth of Kentucky protects the property in perpetuity.

A trail into the wetlands begins at a parking area beside Anderson Lane one quarter mile north of Kentucky Route 8 in Melbourne.

Battery Bates Woodlands

Kenton County, Kentucky

Battery Bates is an earthen Civil War cannon battery constructed by the Union Army and civilian volunteers. The three-sided fortification is the most intact remaining structure of the ten-mile line of defensive works built in 1862-63 to protect Cincinnati against Confederate attack. Rifle trenches and an associated military road are also in the mature upland forest around the battery. Recognizing the pivotal role these fortifications played, the National Register of Historic Places entered Battery Bates in 2018.

Protected by Covington Parks and Recreation

Battery Bates is named for Brigadier General Joshua Hall Bates, chairman of the Cincinnati Committee for Public Safety. It is located in the 246-acre “back-country” area of Devou Park, which is named for the family that donated the park to the City of Covington in 1910.

Battery Bates is located in the 246-acre “back-country” area of Devou Park. From Dixie Highway (U.S. 25) in Fort Wright, turn north on Sleepy Hollow Road (KY 1072), left on Amsterdam Road, right on Fort Henry Drive, and right on Glengarry Way. Proceed almost to the end of Glengarry and park on the street near the sign for the Bates-Coombs Way trail. Walk several hundred feet down the trail through a young woods. When the trail enters a mature forest and merges with a wider trail running from right to left, turn right onto the wider trail, walk 15 feet, and turn left onto the path passing the “permit required for metal detecting” sign. Thirty feet past the sign, turn right onto an ill-defined path ascending the crest of the ridge. Walk a few hundred feet up the path to the battery.

Highland Cemetery Nature Trails

Kenton County, Kentucky

The 150-acre wooded portion of the cemetery supports a second-growth forest with abundant spring wildflowers. Six miles of paths provide access to the woodland, including the Black Squirrel Trail, which passes a waterfall and the remains of a nineteenth century springhouse. Stream valleys show evidence of ancient life in fossils from the Ordovician Period.

Protected by Highland Cemetery Incorporated 

Farmland was purchased to establish the cemetery in 1869. In 1990, the nonprofit cemetery’s Board of Directors decided to dedicate half of their 300 acres to a nature preserve as a gift to the community.

The cemetery is located in Fort Mitchell at 2167 Dixie Highway, just south of I-75 Exit 188. From the cemetery entrance, take all right-hand turns to reach the trailhead parking area across from the bird feeders.

Licking River Greenway Trailhead

Kenton County, Kentucky

This narrow greenspace currently stretches for almost two miles along the west bank of the Licking River. A trail through riparian forest provides views of the Licking, a stream ecologists consider to provide a unique ecosystem in the region. Several relatively rare fish species are present as well as one of the world’s most diverse communities of freshwater mussels. Eleven of the river’s 50+ mussel species are globally endangered or threatened with extinction.

Protected by Covington Parks and Recreation 

In 2010, Covington became the first city to begin implementing this urban greenspace project. The completed greenway will span 12-14 miles and include land in three additional cities: Newport, Taylor Mill, and Wilder.

From Madison Avenue, drive east on Levassor Place. Turn left on Eastern Avenue, then an immediate left into the Holmes parking lot. At the corner of Eastern and Levassor, look across Eastern Avenue to see a sign marking the southern terminus of the greenway trail. At its north end, the trail ends at a point across the levee from Randolph Park on Eighth Street. Accessible by public transit — TANK route 8 (Eastern Av/Fort Wright). The wide, graded trail has a surface of grass, dirt, and gravel. Accessibility rating for disabled persons is Level 2.

Morning View Heritage Area

Kenton County, Kentucky

This property protects 224 acres of forest and about 3,600 feet of frontage on the Licking River, a critical habitat for several endangered mussel species. Restoration work includes construction of ephemeral wetlands, introduction of a population of the endangered Short’s goldenrod, and installation of roosting structures for the endangered Indiana bat. The site’s four trails total three miles in length. The Kreissl Trail passes through excellent examples of old-field communities returning to forest and offers views over the valley.

Protected by Kenton County Conservation District

The Conservation District purchased the land, formerly the Steinhauser family farm, from willing sellers. The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided funding. Some of the funds came from sales of Kentucky’s “Nature” license plates.

The preserve is located at 15168 Decoursey Pike (KY 177), about a half mile south of the intersection with Rich Road (KY 14).

Ohio

Ellis Lake Wetlands

Butler County, Ohio

This 300-acre wetland park along the Miami and Erie Canal corridor is a small oasis in an area otherwise heavily industrialized. This is a birding hot-spot that includes willow-fringed waterbodies, former ice ponds, and the site of a nineteenth-century ice house. Flood-control overflows from the Mill Creek create temporary pools that serve as feeding areas for migrating birds.

Protected by West Chester Township Parks 

The wetlands park was established through the support of the Clean Ohio Fund, public-spirited donors, Ohio EPA, Mill Creek Alliance, and Butler County’s Board of Commissioners, Engineers Office, and Environmental Services.

The preserve is located at 15168 Decoursey Pike (KY 177), about a half mile south of the intersection with Rich Road (KY 14).

Gilmore MetroPark

Butler County, Ohio

Gilmore MetroPark, Hamilton, Ohio’s 300-acre preserve, is a birder’s paradise. Designated an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society, this MetroPark is frequently home to great egrets, black-crowned night-herons, green herons, great blue herons, and many other migratory bird species. Located along the former Miami and Erie Canal in the Upper Mill Creek watershed, the park consists of wetlands and historic ice ponds. The location includes a raised bird blind, viewing decks, and three miles of trails.

Protected by MetroParks of Butler County 

The Gilmore Ponds Conservancy, a local nonprofit, acquired the first parcels of land during the 1980's to protect it from development. Later, MetroParks of Butler County acquired and expanded the property.

The preserve is located at 7950 Gilmore Road in Hamilton, about one-half mile north of Symmes Road. A south entrance is off Symmes Road east of Gilmore. Both entrances have parking areas.

Hueston Woods State Nature Preserve

Butler County, Ohio

Beech and sugar maple trees comprise 80% of the trees in the preserve, an old-growth forest located within Hueston Woods State Park. The “Big Woods” are a remnant of the beech-maple forests that once covered much of Ohio. Miami University faculty and students have conducted numerous ecological studies in the 200-acre woodland. It was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1967 and a State Nature Preserve in 1973.

Protected by Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Matthew Hueston settled the area in 1797 but preserved a remnant of the native forest. Morris Taylor, a conservationist, purchased the woods in the 1930s following the death of the last Hueston descendants. The state has owned and maintained the land since 1941.

The woodland is located on the state park’s Main Loop Road, between Acton Lake and the golf course.

Rentschler Forest Earthwork

Butler County, Ohio

This 2,000-year-old Adena or Hopewell earthwork originally consisted of a wall enclosing eleven acres on land overlooking the Great Miami River. Following years of erosion, only the entranceway to the earthwork survives: A 100-foot earthen ring embraced by two arcs. Private and public conservation of the earthwork has served to preserve the old-growth trees at the site.

Protected by Metro Parks of Butler County 

The Rentschler Forest Line Hill Mound Area containing the earthwork is named for James R. Line, whose bequest provided funds for the acquisition of the property.

From Ohio 4 northeast of Hamilton, turn north onto Rentschler Estates Drive and then left at the large white barn. From the trailhead parking lot, follow Earth Works Trail (red-marked signposts) to Signpost 19, turn right and continue to Signpost 27. Turn left, follow the trail downslope to Signpost 28 and use the interpretive sign on the right to orient yourself to the earthwork.

Riverside Natural Area

Butler County, Ohio

This 200-acre preserve primarily consists of meadows and wetlands surrounding a pond in an old channel of the Great Miami River. An extensive trail system leads to the 17-acre pond, a 5-acre marsh, and an observation mound overlooking the meadows.

Protected by Hamilton Parks Conservancy

Most of this area sits on a sludge disposal site reclaimed by the City of Hamilton in the early 1990s. The Hamilton Conservation Corps, a volunteer organization whose purpose is to help preserve Hamilton’s Natural Areas, oversees this site.

The entrance to the trail network is at the west end of Fairview Avenue (Conservation Way) in Hamilton. The trails are wide, grassy, and essentially level. Accessibility rating for disabled persons is Level 2.

Crooked Run Nature Preserve

Clermont County, Ohio

Offering over 77 acres of mixed habitat, this preserve also boasts floodplain woodland, fields, a pond and the Crooked Run backwater tributary of the Ohio River. Some two miles of trails feature a river overlook, an elevated observation platform and three bird blinds where over 200 bird species have been recorded. Most of the trails are handicapped accessible, wide and nearly level with earth and gravel surfaces.

Protected by Clermont County Park District

The Clermont County Park District leases and manages the preserve, which is owned by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Ohio Department of Natural Resources. In 1978, Mimi Paul made a partial gift of the property to the Division, in honor of her husband, Robert J. Paul.

The preserve is located within Chilo Lock 34 Park approximately one mile east of Chilo off U.S. Route 52.

Kelley Nature Preserve

Clermont County, Ohio

This 42-acre riverside forest preserve has almost two miles of trails. It provides views and access to the Little Miami River. Because of the exceptional quality of the river’s aquatic ecosystem and riparian habitat, the Little Miami is designated a National Wild and Scenic River. Only one quarter of one percent of the nation’s rivers receive this distinction. The preserve also includes a three-acre prairie area that offers abundant summer wildflowers.

Protected by Clermont County Parks District 

The preserve began as a 21-acre land gift from Virginia Kelley in honor of her late husband, Walter A. Kelley. The park district later acquired an additional 21 acres.

The preserve is located on Glendale-Milford Road (State Route 126) immediately west of Miamiville. Many of the trails are level and wide with grass, dirt, and gravel surfaces, providing Level 2 accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Rowe Woods

Clermont County, Ohio

This Cincinnati Nature Center property supports sixty-five acres of old-growth forest along its Wildflower and Red Wing Trails, an undisturbed stream community in Avey’s Run, a large glacial conglomerate structure known as Fox Rock, and fifteen miles of hiking paths. There is a visitor center with a gift shop and a new Center for Conservation.

Protected by Cincinnati Nature Center

Stan Rowe and twelve other founding trustees formed a non-profit association in 1965. They raised funds and purchased the first 175 acres that year. Protected land has grown to the current 1,025 acres through subsequent purchases. Cincinnati Nature Center is the largest member-supported nature center in the country.

Rowe Woods and the Cincinnati Nature Center are accessed via Tealtown Road in Milford.

Valley View Nature Preserve

Clermont County, Ohio

This 190-acre preserve, in the City of Milford, conserves streams, floodplain and upland forests, grasslands planted with prairie species, and ephemeral and riparian wetlands. The site borders over a mile of the East Fork of the Little Miami River. Five miles of trails crisscross the property. Visitors will also find a community garden, historic farm buildings, and an education center.

Protected by Valley View Foundation

Beginning in 2002, a group of concerned citizens formed a non-profit group and raised over $4 million to purchase the property. Volunteers are restoring and preserving the structures, former farmland and its surrounding tracts of woods.

Parking is located at the south end of the property behind Pattison Elementary School, 5330 South Milford Road. Another access is to the north at Arrowhead Farm, 790 Garfield Avenue.