After discussing my recent attempt to attract more butterflies and pollinators to my yard, a friend suggested I take a day trip and explore Beech Creek Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve. Located in Alliance, Ohio, it was a pleasant drive for me of just under an hour.
Several rainy days in a row had me feeling pretty cooped up. My whole family felt the urge to go outside and explore.
Beech Creek Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve has all the things I enjoy, like hiking trails and a blend of flowers, perennials and annuals, along with many kid-centered options for exploring nature.
Typically, we’re very frugal when it comes to exploring the great outdoors. There are so many free state and local parks that we rarely pay entrance fees. However, this trip was an exception and I’m very pleased with my decision to splurge.
Beech Creek is an independent nonprofit organization. Because they do not receive any tax dollars, entrance fees help to run and maintain the nature preserve. Charitable donations, membership fees and grants also help the organization meet financial obligations.
I knew I was at the right place when I read their mission statement. It states, “We believe that quality of life and the health of the environment are interdependent and that an understanding of nature improves the lives of individuals. We provide educational opportunities and interactive experiences that inspire people to be good stewards of their communities and the world.”
The first area we walked through was the hummingbird garden. I was instantly transported back in time and place to my parents’ backyard.
The gateway to the garden was a trellis completely covered by thriving trumpet honeysuckle plants. Bright red blooms covered the arch. Yellow centers in the flowers attract hummingbirds and provide nectar.
Honeysuckle flowers bloom throughout the summer and can reach a mature height of 8 feet. I can remember my dad reinforcing his trellis to support an exuberant honeysuckle that was 8 feet tall and almost 6 feet wide.
After the hummingbird garden, we began our descent into the valley where several hiking trails are located. As we were walking, my son shared with me that Beech Creek reminded him of the book Fablehaven by Brandon Mull.
The book is about siblings left in the care of their grandparents who are caretakers of a nature preserve. What they discover is that the nature preserve is actually a sanctuary for magical creatures. The younger brother breaks a rule, and together the siblings have to restore order to the sanctuary to save the magical creatures.
Beech Creek was so similar to how Fablehaven was described, that we felt like we were immersed in the fictional setting.
The trails are very peaceful and wonderful for bird watching. We saw several cardinals swoop across in front of us. The trails range from 1/5 a mile to one mile in length, perfect for all ages.
We crossed the creek and headed toward the new Raptor Hallow Sanctuary along the Wild Wonders Trail. Raptor Hallow Sanctuary is a separate nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Earth’s biodiversity and securing the future of all bird of prey species in their natural habitats. The trail is being built in phases to accommodate more animal ambassadors.
The current animal ambassadors include a variety of hawks, owls and vultures. It is also home to one bald eagle named Sequoia.
One of our favorite parts of the nature preserve was Nature Playce, a 2-acre nature playground. The space was created to engage children in exploration and creativity while being physically active in the great outdoors.
We loved the huts created with sticks and shrubs that led up to a treehouse only seen in dreams. The treehouses were built around mature trees and included ramps, a rope swing bridge and a firefighter’s pole. Several hideaway nooks were established with natural elements.
My kids were able to climb, jump and zip line while immersed in a natural setting. I loved that the nature playground had elements to engage all ages and abilities. Other areas were adaptable as well.
Adjacent to the playground was an area called Gravity Glue. Combining the studies of physics and art, kids could arrange and build rock towers. Other STEM activities included giant Lincoln logs along with rocks and bricks for building.
Reading and exploring are my top indulgences of summer; Beech Creek Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve combined the two. We already have plans to return several times this summer.
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