Celebrating Ninety Years of the Wood County Park District

Wood County Parks 90 - 1934 - 2024. Graphic of a stained glass tree. "Celebrating 90 years of serving Wood County"

1934 Wood County Park District created under the Ohio Revised code. Its mission is to protect, preserve and interpret the natural and cultural history of the area. It is the sixth oldest county park district in Ohio. Starting with just 12 acres along the Maumee River, Wood County Park District has expanded to 1,251 acres throughout the county with a vast array of activities for visitors.

1937 Mary Jane Thurston Park Upon the death of local schoolteacher, Mary Jane Thruston in 1932, 12 acres of river front property in Grand Rapids was donated to the state of Ohio in 1932.   This property soon became the first Wood County Park.  Locks from the old Miami-Erie Canal are still in place at this site.

1937 Otsego Park

This park was a privately owned resort for several years prior to becoming a Wood County Park. The popularity of this resort, Grand View Park, increased with the completion of River Road along the south side of the Maumee River.  Frequent visitors enjoyed row boats, baseball diamonds, picnic tables, and camp sites until the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Hard times during that era prompted the owners to sell their resort. Soon after, it became the second park of the Wood County Park District and was named Otsego for an old river town that had once been in the area.   In 1938, the depression era works program, WPA provided jobs for more than 170 men who made improvements to this park as well as Mary Jane Thurston Park.  Today, the Thompson Stone Hall at Otsego Park is the most distinct reminder of their efforts and the oldest building in the park district.

1951 William Henry Harrison Park

Located on the north bank of the Portage River near Pemberville, William Henry Harrison Park was dedicated in 1956 to the US general who camped in this area with his army during the bitter winter months of 1812-13.  By the end of January 1813 Harison’s army of 1700 troops departed the Portage River and moved forward to the Maumee River where they built Fort Meigs.  Harrison’s military success during the War of 1812 eventually led to his election as the 9th President of the United States.

1967 Mary Jane Thurston Park

The first Wood County Park was transferred back to the State of Ohio due to financial limitations. Soon after Mary Jane Thurston Park was reopened as a state park.

1976 Wood County Museum

For over 100 years, from 1868 to 1971, this site on the outskirts of Bowling Green was the Old Wood County Home providing shelter to the poor and infirmed.  As this system of care became outmoded, the Home was finally closed.  Two years later, the Wood County Board of Commissioners determined that the Wood County Park District would be the ground keepers and the main building on the site would become the home of the Wood County Historical Museum.  The park area to the west of the museum was known as Adam Phillips Park.  All the land was part of the county home property.  Adam Philips pond was created when a borrow pit was dug there during the construction of I-75 in the late 1950’s while the park itself was designed in the early 2000’s when the park district assumed management of the site.

1989 Park District Headquarters

Previously housed at other locations, the park district headquarters now has its own space.

1989 Friends of the Parks

This organization was established to support the park district’s levy efforts. Its mission is to support the management, growth and visibility of the Wood County Park District through funding, publicity and volunteer staffing of promotional events.  Some of the contributions made by the Friends include significant support for the levy campaigns, funding for the green house at Reuthinger Preserve and assistance in the purchase of land to expand the Reuthinger Preserve and the new park benches found throughout the park district.

1990 Fuller Preserve

This preserve was donated to the Wood County Park District by Dewey and Ellen Fuller.  Their goal was to have it maintained in the natural state of the acreage and available for the public to enjoy.  The park district attempts to honor the requests of the donors whenever possible. Undeveloped land, such as Fuller Preserve, is important because these areas provide natural habitats for wild animals and plants and help improve air and water quality.

1991 Cedar Creeks Preserve

This was the first park developed in the northeast part of the county.  During a meeting held between WCPD commissioners and a citizen group to discuss park development it was learned that most people wished to keep the natural area as undisturbed as possible.  The Wood County Park Commissioners directed the landscape architect to develop this park with that request in mind.

1992 Buttonwood Park/Betty C. Black Recreation Area

For years, this location in Perrysburg Township has been a premier spot for walleye fishing. In fact, the Ohio Division of Wildlife reported that 65% of all walleyes caught in the Maumee River are drawn from the Buttonwood area.  This property was acquired through funds provided by Wood County, a grand from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a donation from the property owners, George and Betty Black.  Mr. Black requested that the name be changed to honor his wife.  However, the area was known as Buttonwood for decades. The term refers to the giant sycamore trees (also known as Buttonwoods) that cover the property.  Upon discussion of the name change, it was decided that adding Mrs. Black’s name to the title would be the best fit for this park.  Efforts were made to develop the park for additional family friendly activities.  Ice floes from the river unfortunately destroyed the soccer fields, parking lots, etc. that were put in place.  The park remains a favorite fishing spot for anglers from all over northwest Ohio.

1993 Baldwin Woods Preserve

Located near Weston, Ohio, this site was donated to Brown University in Rhode Island by an alumnus.  Efforts to return the property to local hands resulted in the site coming under the stewardship of the Wood County Park District. The preserve includes a stand of trees over a century old, along with grasslands and wetlands. The park district has left the site undeveloped, and hunting, which has been a tradition on this property, is still permitted today.

1993 W.W. Knight Nature Preserve

The original 42-area parcel, situated in Perrysburg Township, was donated by the grandchildren of William Windus Knight who was a businessman, philanthropist and nature enthusiast.  Opened to the public in 2005, this preserve includes a nature center, with a Look Out on Nature area that’s perfect for bird watching, a boardwalk along the pond and through the wetland and wooded area.  It’s a wonderful setting for the nature camps offered each summer for local children.

1993 Zimmerman School

Restored and donated by John and Eleanor Zimmerman. This building’s original site was at the intersection of Nelson and Carter Rds.   Both John’s mother and grandmother were teachers at the one room schoolhouse.  The couple wanted it to be used for educational purposes again and envisioned it as a “time machine” that returned visitors back to the year 1892 when the school was first established.  It was moved to the Carter Historic Farm location in 2016.

1995 Slippery Elm Trail

This trail extends 13.1-miles along the former CSX Railroad between Bowling Green and North Baltimore.  The name of this park comes from the material used to construct Wood County’s early railroad tracks which were made of timber from the Slippery Elm trees rather than steel. To prepare the site for park use, a huge community effort was organized in April 1992 to clean up years of garbage that had been dumped along the tracks including refrigerators, tires, water heaters, washers, dryers, bottles and cans.  With an average of 275 users per day, the trail is the park district’s most utilized facility.

1998 Rudolph Savanna

This 50-acre site located near Portage has never been farmed and was considered wasteland in the past.  It is made up of wetlands, sand dunes and rare plants. The sand dunes found here are deposits from an ancient lake that once covered much of northwest Ohio.

1999 Bradner Preserve

This preserve began as a 188-acre parcel in the eastern part of Wood County; however, the park district has made a practice of acquiring land adjacent to its parks whenever possible.  As a result, Bradner Preserve, now stands at 233 acres, is the largest park in the district.

2000 Carter Historic Farm

Situated just north of Bowling Green, this farm opened to the public in 2015. Sally and Lyle Loomis donated their farm to WCPD because they wanted to see the farm continue as is in perpetuity, to protect it from development and as a place for people to enjoy.”  Sally’s grandparents, Jeremiah and Lily Carter originally purchased the farm in 1901 for $6,000. The family operated the farm and cared for the land for several generations.  Today, it serves as a living history museum that celebrates rural farm life depicted in the 1930s and 1940s. The food products grown on the farm are donated to local charities or shared with the community during scheduled breakfasts and festivals at the parks.

2001 Black Swamp Preserve

The Great Black Swamp that covered much of northwest Ohio for centuries was inhabited by bears, wolves, and stinging insects, and was the last part of Ohio to be settled.  During the late 1800s, the swamp was gradually drained and became one of the world’s most productive farming areas because the former swampland had such rich fertile soil.  In recent decades, however, scientists have developed a greater understanding of the value of wetlands to the environment, resulting in efforts to restore portions of the swamp to its pre-settlement state. For this reason, the Wood County Park District has taken a leading role in wetland restoration.  Prior to opening the Black Swamp Preserve, thousands of saplings, friendly to wetland environments, were donated and planted by staff and volunteers. The long-term goal is to create a swamp forest with a canopy of oak trees.   The preserve is in Bowling Green and is jointly owned and maintained by the Wood County Park District and the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department.   It opened to the public in 2015.

2005 Beaver Creek Preserve

Like many of the parks in the district, this preserve was financed through the coordinated effort of several different sources. A grant from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, park district funds and a donation from the owners, John and Linda Kane, all came together to make this property available to the public.

2005 J.C. Reuthinger Memorial Preserve

Located in Perrysburg Township, this land was donated by Lucille Reuthinger Knepper, a retired home economics teacher from Perrysburg High School.  Lucille grew up on this property which was her family’s farm and dairy. In the 1920’s, her parents opened a landing field on their farm that was the first in this part of the state.  The family hosted many pilots while their air strip was in use.  During her lifetime, Mrs. Knepper was offered large sums of money for the property as this part of the township was becoming highly industrialized.  But she refused all offers because her dream was for the family farm to be preserved and protected. Today, Reuthinger Preserve is the site for the Wood County Park District’s stewardship department, a greenhouse and native plant nursery.  It also became the first wetland migration site in the park district.

2014 Sawyer Quarry Nature Preserve situated in Perrysburg Township was donated to the park district by the Charles and Ann Sawyer family.  A large tract of trees as well as a dry limestone quarry are on the 61-acre park. The land had been in the Sawyer Family for 131 years and was first purchased by Charles Henry Sawyer in 1883. The quarry provided limestone ash for glass making and material for other industries.  It was in business until 1932 when miners struck an underground water source that flooded the quarry. At that point, it became the Sawyer family’s recreation spot for several decades. Today, the land is protected under a conservation easement requiring that the wooded area remain in a natural state.  The site is home to the Wood County Park District’s rappelling program, an interpretative center, and hiking trails. The quarry floor, no longer flooded, is accessible by stairs for visitors who wish to explore the geographical formation of Wood County.

2017 Arrowwood Archery Range

Donated by the Wood County Commissioners and located behind the Wood County Historical Museum.  The park opened to the public in 2018.

2022 Cricket Frog Cove

Purchased in 2022, Cricket Frog Cove encompasses 160 acres of woodland, prairie and a pond.  Parks such as this one, feature a variety of habitats resulting in attracting a wide variety of birds.   Many of the Wood County Parks are favored sites for birdwatchers.

2022 Rudolf Bike Park

This park was developed in response to a survey of Wood County citizens who wanted non-traditional biking opportunities.  PumpTrax, USA was selected to design Wood County Park District’s new park.  It features a 1,783-foot looped sequence of rollers and banked turns for bike riders, one of the longest tracks of this type in the country. The idea is to maximize momentum, so cyclists can ride it with minimal pedaling. Visitors from as far as Maine and Texas have come to enjoy exciting adventures offered by this unique county park.