Carol Kennard, executive director of the Clark County Park District, at the entrance to the Mad River Gorge climbing area Friday. The Clark County Park District has recently purchased Mad River Gorge and pulled over 125,000 pounds of trash from the gorge, but they still have more to go. Leave No Trace Behind has chosen the gorge as one of 15 hot spots in the country to assist with this process. Bill Lackey/Staff

Clark County continue massive clean up of new park, gorge

A recently developed park and nature preserve will get a visit next month from an organization devoted to showing visitors how to enjoy nature while leaving the area in pristine condition.

From Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, Leave No Trace will host activities at the Mad River Gorge and Nature Preserve. The Clark County Park District won a roughly $800,000 grant from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, allowing the district to purchase land to create the Mad River Gorge and Nature Preserve. The funding also allowed the district to clean the land and remove invasive plant species.

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Mad River was recently chosen as one of sixteen Hot Spots across the country. Hot Spots are outdoor areas that have experienced visitor-related impacts including excessive trash, damage to vegetation, trail erosion, and disturbance to wildlife.

“They teach people how to enjoy the natural environment without loving it to death,” said Carol Kennard, executive director of Clark County Park District.

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During the week, Leave no Trace will host public programs for children and adults. On Sept. 30, there will be a trail work day to continue improving the paths and nature preserve.

“It’s another chance for people to come out with some good sturdy shoes and work gloves to help get the park more in shape for the public to enjoy,” Kennard said.

The park has already received extensive help from area organizations and volunteers.

In May, the park district hosted Adopt-a-Crag and partnered with the Ohio Climbers Coalition and Statewide Climbing Organization to remove trash and junk from the gorge. With the help of 200 volunteers, more than 125,000 pounds of trash were removed in one day.

Volunteers also built trails for better access to the gorge, removed of invasive species and organized climbing demonstrations.

“It’s just really fortunate for Clark County that we’ve had the resources and the partners to preserve this gorge and natural area for ever,” Kennard said. “And I know people who have lived in this community have been waiting for this land to come under public ownership.”

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The Ohio Climbers Coalition bolted routes into the rocks for climbers, and will help monitor the bolts and the usage of the routes.

“We were thrilled to have such a great turnout,” said Kennard said of the Adopt-a-Crag event.

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The park is still a bit primitive, Kennard said. The main trail has rock steps without hand rails, so she recommends a walking stick for anyone who doesn’t feel sure footed. However, this hasn’t stopped people from visiting the walking trails, programs, or taking advantage of the rock climbing options.

“It’s really good for Clark County because people are talking about the ridges all around the country,” Kennard said. “People travel out of state to climb here. I think this park is not only for the climbing enthusiasts and the nature enthusiasts, but it also helps out the economic vitality of the community.”

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