Photo courtesy of Metro Parks
Workers are shown here planting one of the trees in Blacklick Park when the park was new.
Thousands of years in the making, Blacklick Woods Metro Park-which opened in 1948-went from improved farmland, a stand of hardwood trees, and a swampy forest to a 632-acre outdoor complex in 60 short years.
Considered one of the best remaining beech-maple forests in Franklin County, 291 acres of wooded forests comprise nearly half of the park, which also includes fields, picnic areas, trails and a pair of golf courses. The main wooded area is home to the 54-acre Walter A. Tucker Scenic Nature Preserve, named for the first park board executive director.
Tucker’s vision, originating in the late 1940s, came to fruition when he spied a real estate ad offering land located in an area known for more than a century as Ashton Woods. The area was first settled in 1805 when James Crawford received a land grant of 620 acres near Reynoldsburg for services rendered during the Revolutionary War.
As early as 13,000 B.C., Paleolithic Indians were present in the general vicinity and as glacial ice sheets retreated northward, so did nomadic tribes. The Adena appeared in the area in 1,000 to 800 B.C. While there is no evidence of Native American occupation within park boundaries, the nearest recorded site is approximately 2,000 feet south of Blacklick Woods along Blacklick Creek.
Geologically, the park lies on a gently rolling late Wisconsonian Period till plain 870 to 895 feet above sea level. The bedrock is primarily shale and the park is home to swamp forest woodland pools, once common throughout Ohio, but now very scarce.
A 1798 survey of the area recorded sizeable beech, ash, white oak, and hickory trees on site. However, most of the forest was eventually cleared so the land could be used for farmland and grazing meadows. William Ashton, who arrived from Baltimore, Md., between 1810 and 1820, made his first recorded land purchase in 1827. The Ashton inventory eventually grew to encompass properties on the north and south sides of Livingston Avenue, including land serving today as the first Metro Park.
According to Metro Park documents, the land now known as Blacklick Woods was too swampy for farming. The Ashton family was reported to be so enamored of the woodland, when it came time to make a decision regarding chopping down the trees to use them for lumber, they chose to keep the area in its natural state.
The Columbus Audubon Society used the farm’s woodlot for spring birdwatching for many years. The area now included in Blacklick Woods Metro Park remained rural until after World War II and was purchased for public use between 1948 and 1967.
As the first public park, Blacklick Woods was deemed an "instant success" even though it was located "way out in the country on a two lane dirt road" with a single picnic area.
The park was firmly established in Reynoldsburg before housing developments started to encroach on its peacefulness.
In the late 1950s, Beech-Maple Lodge was constructed and in 1967, the park district obtained neighboring Stoney Creek Country Club. The first full-time nature center, with a large windowed room overlooking a natural habitat, was built in the mid-1970s.
Designated an Ohio Division of Wildlife "Watchable Wildlife" location, Blacklick Woods is one of the busiest parks in the Metro system with over one million visitors a year. Amenities include a four-mile multi-purpose trail, two-mile natural trail passing through the Tucker preserve, a pair of large picnic areas, playing fields, sledding, and cross-country skiing.
The area is home to fairy shrimp, fingernail clams, snails, crustaceans, a wide variety of insects, frogs, salamanders, and burrowing crayfish. Over 130 species of birds are sighted annually, and 25 species of mammals-such as squirrel, chipmunk, skunk and deer-have been identified within Blacklick Woods’ boundaries.
Free cultural, environmental and interpretive programs are offered throughout the year, and park naturalists are available by appointment to lead free nature programs and walks for groups, schools and organizations. Numerous birdwatching vantage points are located throughout the park and five sheltered picnic areas can be reserved.
Blacklick Woods is located at 6975 E. Livingston Ave. in Reynoldsburg. For more information, call the Metro Parks system at 891-0700 or the infoline at 508-8000, or visit online at www.metroparks.net.
Information for this story was supplied by Blacklick Woods Metro Park Naturalist Diana Morse and "A Cultural History of Blacklick Woods Metro Park" compiled by Robert McCormick.