Ariel Foundation Park (Mt. Vernon)

In Mt. Vernon sits a 250-acre park on land that once housed the Pittsburgh Plate and Glass (PPG) Glassworks No. 11 factory which was at the time of its opening- 1951- the world’s largest plate glass factory.  It closed in 1979.  By 2015 a new park opened on the property and Ariel Foundation Park became reality.

Reflecting Pools
Picture taken from the tallest earthen terrace is 40 feet above ground-level and oversees a couple of reflecting pools and the top of this terrace has its own sculpture made of twisted steel and painted bright red and that extends 30 feet up.

The park has several terraces which resemble burial grounds the Adena and Hopewell cultures would build however in the case of Ariel Foundation Park, the terraces are for seeing the scenery around the park itself which has several reflecting pools as well as some lakes which are located where there used to be gravel quarries.  The only watercraft permitted on the lakes have to be human-powered; no engines or sailboats.  Fishing is allowed if you have a fishing license.

Rastin Observation Tower
Other than communication towers, the Rastin Observation Tower is the tallest structure in Knox County. The steps go up for the first 140 feet of the 280 feet of PPG’s smokestack that was built in 1951 and used until the plant closed in 1979.

If you like climbing to high places then the Rastin Observation tower is for you.  The Independence Day fireworks display happens here and for the 2016 show- and I assume this will continue into the future- raffle tickets could be bought for $1 and the winner of the raffle could watch the fireworks from the tower.

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Pavilions for are available for rent around the Lakes and also some pavilions like this one is available for much smaller groups.

Parks like this are known for having pavilions to serve large groups but Ariel Foundation also has smaller ones for couples/families who don’t need 20 tables.  The pavilions are found around The Lakes.  The Knox County Fish and Game association held its annual Fishing Derby at The Lakes.  And the Heart of Ohio Trail runs right next to the park.

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The Schnormeier Events Center is a 17,000 square foot structure that has been wonderfully preserved at Ariel-Foundation Park. This building is a focal point for various community events, as it can accommodate up to 2,000 guests. Summer concerts are held there with seating provided or bring your own lawn chairs. Next to it is an elevator shaft from the PPG (Pittsburgh Plate and Glass) building.

The sections of the PPG plant that are saved throughout the park are referred to as The Ruins and they serve as a reminder of what once occupied the property.  There are also some steel girders among the Ruins that were saved from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  Most impressive to me is how many mature trees are already here.  Considering that the land once housed a factory I wondered the land would be mostly flat, without trees since there would also have been a flat parking lot to go with it.  Fortunately that was not the case; there are plenty of trees here.

River of Glass
These chunks of glass, known as “cullet,” were found by the thousands during park construction, leftover from the old PPG plant. Cullet was formed when a glass melting tank was shut down for repair and the molten glass remaining in the tank had cooled and hardened. The mass would be broken into pieces, removed, and later re-melted to make new glass.

Aaron Keirns has written a book about the park and its history.  Also on the property is the Urton Clock House which is a museum which covers the history of the PPG plant that was once here and it also serves as an event center for anyone who would like to rent it.

There are a couple of entrances to the park.  If you’re coming up from the south on Ohio 3/U.S. 36, you’ll see an entrance next to the Harcourt Motel.  That entrance will get you to a parking area next to the lakes and that’s about as far as you can go because the rest of the road through the park is one way.  You can still walk through the rest of the park from that parking lot if you want to.  Otherwise, the entrance picture at the top of this post is off the Pittsburgh Ave. entrance and that will get you through the whole park.  There is a parking lot about 500 feet or so east of this entrance and is next to the Clock House as well as the observation tower.  Regardless of where you park, you will be doing a lot of walking because it is after all, 250 acres!

Ariel Foundation Park
10 Pittsburgh Ave.
Mt. Vernon, OH  43050

Hours:  7 AM – 11 PM; the observation tower is closed during the winter months.  The park is officially open April 1 – November 15, although most of the park (other than the tower and the lakes which have a tendency to freeze in the winter) is accessible year-round.

Admission:  Free

Parking:  Free

Distance from Ohio cities:

  • 49 miles northeast of Columbus
  • 163 miles northeast of Cincinnati
  • 107 miles south-southwest of Cleveland
  • 85 miles southwest of Akron
  • 132 miles southeast of Toledo

 

 

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The Dawes Arboretum (Newark)

The Dawes Arboretum is a collection of nearly 16,000 trees and shrubs spread over 1,800 acres in Newark.  The Arboretum was founded in 1929 by Beman and Bertie Dawes and was inspired by the couple’s love of trees and nature.  Beman Dawes’ aim was to inspire people to plant trees when he bought 140 acres of the old Brumback farm in Licking County around 1917.  By the time Dawes Arboretum was founded in 1929, it was 293 acres.  And now it’s 1,800 acres.

Story Trail follows the children's book "Maple" by Lori Nichols as there are around two dozen of these story boards/pages from the book as you walk along the trail.
Story Trail follows the children’s book “Maple” by Lori Nichols as there are around two dozen of these story boards/pages from the book as you walk along the trail.

The Arboretum says it’s a museum without walls and that’s probably a good way to put it.  And while 1,800 acres is a lot, there are two driving tours on the grounds that are around 4 miles total.  The North and South Driving Tours don’t connect directly to each other but are around 2 miles each and both have places along the tours to park so that you can get out and see parts of the garden up close.

Along the North Driving Tour is Holly Hill, not named for anyone named Holly but for the plants, of which I found over two dozen Hollies here and in fact Dawes Arboretum is an official Holly Arboretum as recognized by the Holly Society of America.
Along the North Driving Tour is Holly Hill, not named for anyone named Holly but for the plants, of which I found over two dozen Hollies here and in fact Dawes Arboretum is an official Holly Arboretum as recognized by the Holly Society of America.

On May 30, 2015, the Japanese Gardens opened after a two-year closure for renovations.  Makoto Nakamura designed the Gardens in 1963 and offered input on the renovations over four days in the summer of 2014.  Input such as proper Japanese pruning techniques and the placement of the rocks around the pond.

The Japanese Gardens are a popular attraction at Dawes Arboretum says Executive Director Luke Messinger. "It's a visitor favorite. It has a really cool place in people’s hearts,” Messinger said. "The Japanese Garden is kind of unique. It's a hide and reveal garden, so when someone walks in, they might say: ‘Oh, that doesn’t look like much.’ But you head further in and you get to the reveal."
The Japanese Gardens are a popular attraction at Dawes Arboretum says Executive Director Luke Messinger. “It’s a visitor favorite. It has a really cool place in people’s hearts,” Messinger said. “The Japanese Garden is kind of unique. It’s a hide and reveal garden, so when someone walks in, they might say: ‘Oh, that doesn’t look like much.’ But you head further in and you get to the reveal.”

There are eight themed areas within Dawes Arboretum:  Garden Gateway (where the Japanese Gardens among other sites are located), Daweswood, Glacier Ridge, Woodlands, Dawes Lake, Red Barn area, Arboretum East, and Dutch Fork Wetlands.

Also in the Garden Gateway is the Cypress Swamp which is one of the northernmost bald-cypress swamps in North America.
Also in the Garden Gateway is the Cypress Swamp which is one of the northernmost bald-cypress swamps in North America.

There is a Visitors Center on the right shortly after you enter through the gates.  Not the first right as that leads to Daweswood and the Red Barn area but the Center is right on the driveway that you enter on and next to the parking area.  They have maps like you would expect as well as soft drinks/sports drinks/bottled water for sale as well as shirts and walking sticks, among other things for sale.  Restrooms are also in the Visitors Center.

Dawes Lake is an 8-acre pond with an island. The fish species found in Dawes Lake are bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, some crappie and white amur (for vegetation control). Catch-and-release fishing in Dawes Lake is permitted if you are a member of the Arboretum. Memberships start at $30.
Dawes Lake is an 8-acre pond with an island. The fish species found in Dawes Lake are bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, some crappie and white amur (for vegetation control). Catch-and-release fishing in Dawes Lake is permitted if you are a member of the Arboretum. Memberships start at $30.

The Dawes Arboretum
7770 Jacksontown Rd. SE
Newark, Ohio 43056

Hours: The Arboretum opens at 7 AM daily, entry for the Auto Tour ends at 8 PM.  The grounds close at sunset.  It is closed for New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.  The Visitors Center is open 8 AM – 5 PM Monday-Saturday and 10 AM – 5 PM on Sundays and holidays.

Admission:  Free

Parking:  Free

Distance from Ohio cities:

  • 40 miles East of Columbus
  • 151 miles Northeast of Cincinnati
  • 145 miles South-Southwest of Cleveland
  • 125 miles South-Southwest of Akron
  • 165 miles Southeast of Toledo

 

Kingwood Center Gardens (Mansfield)

Just to the west of downtown Mansfield sits the 47-acre estate that was once home to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kelly King up until his death in 1952.  Ever since 1953 it has been a public garden and that was by his design as he was married and divorced twice and had no children to inherit his fortune he earned at the Ohio Brass Company.  Mr. King was hired as the company’s first electrical engineer in 1898 and remained with the company and eventually became Chairman of the Board and President of Ohio Brass.

Charles King's mansion at Kingwood Center now houses the Center's horticultural library and administrative offices.  The first floor looks much like it did when Mr. King lived there.  The mansion is a popular location in Mansfield for weddings so it's not a given that it will be open on weekends to people other than wedding guests.
Charles King’s mansion at Kingwood Center now houses the Center’s horticultural library and administrative offices. The first floor looks much like it did when Mr. King lived there. The mansion is a popular location in Mansfield for weddings so it’s not a given that it will be open on weekends to people other than wedding guests.

The balance of the estate is made up around a dozen different floral gardens.  And while the grounds are beautiful any time of the spring/summer/fall, the are events going on throughout the year:  http://www.kingwoodcenter.org/cms/images/pdfs/CalofEvents/CAL15.pdf

The rose garden at Kingwood Center.
The rose garden at Kingwood Center.

To take in all there is to see here, it’s about a 2-3 hour visit.

Memorial fountains in honor of George L. Draffan, first chairman of the Kingwood Center Administrative Board.
Memorial fountains in honor of George L. Draffan, first chairman of the Kingwood Center Administrative Board.  That is Kingwood Hall at the other end of this grassy mall.
Also on the grounds are greenhouses with more plants/flowers on display and attached to the greenhouse is another room with plants/flowers that are available for sale.
Also on the grounds are greenhouses with more plants/flowers on display and attached to the greenhouse is another room with plants/flowers that are available for sale.
The Duck Pond at Kingwood Center.  Food to feed the ducks is available for a quarter from dispensers located around the pond.
The Duck Pond at Kingwood Center. Food to feed the ducks is available for a quarter from dispensers located around the pond.

While Kingwood is not promoted as a place to hike, as you might imagine there is plenty of space for doing that on its 47 acres.  It is kind of quiet considering that it’s not out in the country but at the corner of Trimble Rd and Park Avenue West.  In the rose garden picture, on the right side you can see houses which are not part of the estate but are on N. Linden Rd.

While there are no spaces for group picnics, there are tables available for couples and small groups for eating in the great outdoors.

Some outlets refer to the address as 900 Park Avenue West.  That changed this past spring to 50 N. Trimble Rd since that was always the public entrance to the park.

Kingwood Center Gardens
50 N. Trimble Rd.
Mansfield, OH  44906

Hours:  Grounds are open 9 AM – 7 PM daily; greenhouses are open 9 AM – 6 PM daily.  Kingwood Center is closed January through March.  Kingwood Center is closed for most of November while it is prepared for Christmas at Kingwod which starts November 28, 2015.  Kingwood Hall is open May 10 – September 27.

Admission:  $5 per car or $2 if walking in off the street.  Guided tours of Kingwood Hall are $3 each for ages 7 and up; younger is free.  Kingwood Hall tours are normally available at 11 AM Saturdays and 2 PM on Sundays unless there is a wedding in the Hall.  Self-guided tours can be done on weekdays from 11 AM – 2 PM.

Pets are not allowed on the Kingwood Center grounds.

Parking:  $5/car which includes admission to the grounds.  In other words, admission is not per person (unless you’re walking in) but per vehicle.

Distance from Ohio cities:

  • 2 miles West of Mansfield City Hall
  • 69 miles North-Northeast of Columbus
  • 193 miles Northeast of Cincinnati
  • 83 miles Southwest of Cleveland
  • 69 miles West-Southwest of Akron
  • 106 miles Southeast of Toledo

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (Columbus)

Around 2 miles east of downtown Columbus is 88 acres of park known as the Franklin Park Conservatory.  The Franklin County Agriculture Society purchased the land in 1852 to be used as the site for the first Franklin County Fair.  In 1874 it was designated the space for Ohio State Fair.  In 1886, the Fair moved to its current home- what is now known as the Ohio Expo Center.  The city of Columbus then built the Palm House on the property and opened it to the public in 1895 as Franklin Park Conservatory.  It was known just as Franklin Park from 1884-1895.  Columbus Parks and Recreation owned Franklin Park Conservatory up until 1989.

The John F. Wolfe Palm House at Franklin Park Conservatory not only showcases 43 species of palms from around the world and is a popular spot for wedding receptions or even weddings themselves.  Roughly 200 weddings are held at the Conservatory whether inside or outside on the grounds.
The John F. Wolfe Palm House at Franklin Park Conservatory not only showcases 43 species of palms from around the world and is a popular spot for wedding receptions or even weddings themselves. Roughly 200 weddings are held at the Conservatory whether inside or outside on the grounds.

Some 400 species of plants are housed inside the Conservatory’s green houses and each of its “rooms” are divided according to the natural environments in which the plants would be found: Himalayan Mountain Biome, Rainforest Biome, Desert Biome, and the Pacific Island Water Garden.

The koi pond in Franklin Park Conservatory's Pacific Island Water Garden.
The koi pond in Franklin Park Conservatory’s Pacific Island Water Garden.

The Conservatory is a popular rainy day activity and just as interesting in the winter as it is the same temperature indoors year round.  Fall 2015 will feature large pumpkin carvings by Villafane Studios .Over the Christmas holidays (November 21, 2015 – January 3, 2016), the Conservatory hosts Merry & Bright with Christmas lights and hundreds of poinsettias on display.

In 2003, the Conservatory hosted Chihuly at the Conservatory, a display of Dale Chihuly's glass artwork.  That exhibition proved so popular that the Conservatory set an attendance record.  The private, non-profit group Friends of the Conservatory raised funds to buy most of the glass artwork from the exhibition to make it a permanent part of Franklin Park Conservatory.
In 2003, the Conservatory hosted Chihuly at the Conservatory, a display of Dale Chihuly’s glass artwork. That exhibition proved so popular that the Conservatory set an attendance record. The private, non-profit group Friends of the Conservatory raised funds to buy most of the glass artwork from the exhibition to make it a permanent part of Franklin Park Conservatory.

Outside is the The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden Campus- added in 2009- has 40 community plots as well as culinary, herb, and fragrance gardens.

The Desert Biome at Franklin Park Conservatory displays cacti and other plants that one would find in the desert.
The Desert Biome at Franklin Park Conservatory displays cacti and other plants that one would find in the desert and yes, it is as dry in here- in terms of moisture in the air- as it would be in the desert.
Outside the conservatory, along the Grand Mallway is the NavStar, created by artist Stephen Canneto, has become a landmark sculpture at the park.
Outside the conservatory, along the Grand Mallway is the NavStar, created by artist Stephen Canneto, has become a landmark sculpture at the park.

Franklin Park Conservatory
1777 East Broad St.
Columbus, OH  43203

Hours:  10 AM – 5 PM daily; open until 9 PM Wednesdays through August 26th.

Admission:  $13 – Adults; $10 – Seniors and Students with ID; $6 – Children ages 3-17; Children 2 and younger & members are free.

Parking:  Free

Distances from Ohio cities:

  • 3.1 miles East of Columbus City Hall
  • 127 miles Northeast of Cincinnati
  • 148 miles Southwest of Cleveland
  • 148 miles Southeast of Toledo
  • 140 miles Southwest of Akron

Park of Roses (Columbus)

It’s not often that you could pick a park based on its smell.  The Park of Roses is such a place and I mean that in a good sense.  Located on a 13-acre section of Whetstone Park in Clintonville, the Park of Roses was named one of America’s Top Ten Public Rose Gardens by the All American Rose Society.  The park is home to 12,000 roses made up of 350 varieties of roses.  It’s also home to the first public Earth-Kind Rose Garden outside the Southern United States.  These roses do not need pesticides, fertilizers, dead-heading, or pruning.

The view of the Formal Rose Garden as seen from the observation tower.
The view of the Formal Rose Garden as seen from the observation tower.

In addition to rose gardens, is a herb garden added around 1976 and now has some 200 varieties of plants.  At the North end of the Formal Rose Garden is an observation tower.  The paths in the Park of Roses are paved for those who require a wheelchair or other assistance getting around.  The roses are in full bloom from mid-June to mid-September, although the park is open year round and is open Dawn to Dusk.

The roses are a part of Whetstone Park and so there are also tennis courts and baseball fields, picnic tables, and a playground as well.  There is also a multipurpose trail at the West end of the park that runs parallel to Ohio Route 315.

The fountain was added to the Park in 1957 but it wasn't much more than a garden hose aimed upwards.  In May 2013 the fountain was updated and repaired to look like this.
The fountain was added to the Park in 1957 but it wasn’t much more than a garden hose aimed upwards. In May 2013 the fountain was updated and repaired to look like this.

While the Columbus Parks & Recreation Department owns & maintains Whetstone Park- and, by extension, the Park of Roses- the Columbus Park of Roses Foundation provides financial support through dedications (engraved stones/pavers in the park) & (financial) donations as well as overseeing the volunteer program which helps to maintain the park.  The Foundation became a 501(c)(3)  corporation in 1973, making contributions to it tax deductible.

This is the East entrance to the Park of Roses and it opens to the Heritage Rose Garden.
This is the East entrance to the Park of Roses and it opens to the Heritage Rose Garden.

The 2015 list of roses and park map is available for download if you want to print a copy prior to visiting:  http://www.parkofroses.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Rose-List5.12.15.pdf

Distances from Ohio cities:

  • 9 miles north of Columbus City Hall
  • 122 miles northeast of Cincinnati
  • 151 miles southeast of Toledo
  • 139 miles south-southwest of Cleveland
  • 134 miles southwest of Akron

Columbus Park of Roses:  http://www.parkofroses.org/

Whetstone Park / Park of Roses
3923 High St.
Columbus, OH  43214

I wasn’t able to find a specific address for the Park of Roses on Hollenback Rd. but the High St. address gets you to the entrance to Whetstone Park and you just take Hollenback Rd about a half-mile and it ends at the Park of Roses parking lot.

For some homes in Clintonville, the Park of Roses really is in their backyards.
For some homes in Clintonville, the Park of Roses really is in their backyards.
As you might imagine, the Park of Roses is a popular place for spring/summer weddings.  This particular Summer 2015 wedding had to make it quick as the rain started to fall only minutes into the ceremony.
As you might imagine, the Park of Roses is a popular place for spring/summer weddings. This particular Summer 2015 wedding had to make it quick as the rain started to fall only minutes into the ceremony.

Mt. Gilead State Park (Mt. Gilead)

Situated in Morrow County is the 181-acre Mt. Gilead State Park.  Despite the size it doesn’t feel that big and yet most every activity at the other state parks are available here.  It seems quiet, even for a state park but that could be because Mt. Gilead has 3,660 residents and Morrow County as a whole is rural.  The Population Density is 86 persons/square mile as compared to nearby Delaware County (home to Alum Creek State Park) which has 393 persons/square mile.

There are 5 picnic areas, 3 picnic shelters which are available for reservation online.  Two have 12 tables, one has 10 tables, all 3 have electrical outlets.  If you like hiking/running, Mt. Gilead State Park is a mixed bag.  There are 7 trails but the average trail length is 0.95 miles so it kind of depends on how much hiking you like (or don’t like) to do.  There is a campground with 59 sites that have electricity in addition to 6 primitive camping sites (no electrical hookups).  Also a children’s playground as well as a volleyball court.  A 200-seat amphitheater is available for rental.

There is also 32-acre Mt. Gilead Lake and is available for canoes, rowboats, and boats with electric motors only.  Two lakes are also available for fishing.  Also available for rent are two Deluxe Camper Cabins with electricity, dorm-size refrigerator, TV & DVD Player, and basic furnishings but you’re on your own when it comes to linens and dishes.  Each cabin sleeps 5 adults.

In the winter, the typical activities are available weather permitting:  sledding, ice skating, cross country skiing, and ice fishing.

Distances from Ohio cities:

  • 49 miles North of Columbus
  • 164 miles Northeast of Cincinnati
  • 108 miles Southwest of Cleveland
  • 112 miles Southeast of Toledo
  • 93 miles Southwest of Akron

Mt. Gilead State Park
4119 Ohio Route 95
Mt. Gilead, OH  43338
http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/mountgilead

There is a 9-hole disc golf course at Mt. Gilead State Park but you must bring your own discs as they are not available for rent here.
There is a 9-hole disc golf course at Mt. Gilead State Park but you must bring your own discs as they are not available for rent here.
For bird watchers, there is also a bird blind at the park.
For bird watchers, there is also a bird blind at the park.
The view from Overlook Trail above the lakes at Mt. Gilead State Park.
The view from Overlook Trail above the lakes at Mt. Gilead State Park.
Shuffleboard court and gazebo at the park
Shuffleboard court and gazebo at the park
In addition to Cornhole (pictured) are stakes for horseshoes.
In addition to Cornhole (pictured) are stakes for horseshoes.