Carol Kennard, executive director of the Clark County Park District, takes photos of 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 Park District honored for Mad River Gorge project

The Clark County Parks District has been honored by a state parks and recreation association for having one of one of the best projects in the state this year, the 78-acre Mad River Gorge & Nature Preserve — the largest climbing area Ohio.

RELATED: Clark County continue massive clean up of new park, gorge

The district won a first-place award in the Natural Resources & Conservation category from the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association last month. It has also been nominated as one of three finalists for the Governor’s Award, a best-in-show style honor given to the best project in the state that includes a $500 prize, Park District Executive Director Carol Kennard said.

“That’s really exciting,” she said. “We’re really excited about the recognition for all of the hard work that’s gone into establishing the Mad River Gorge. Because of all of the partnerships we’ve developed during this process, that’s what’s led to the success of the opening (of the park) and this recognition. It’s good to see that type of partnership to make something happen.”

The winner will be chosen at the OPRA Annual Awards of Excellence banquet at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky next month.

The district won a roughly $800,000 grant from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, allowing it to purchase land from private owners, as well as clean the land and remove invasive plant species. The free park allows climbers to scale cliffs in the 40- to 50-foot range.

In May, more than 200 volunteers and 60 sponsors came together to build trails, clean up the former dump sites below the cliffs, and remove invasive species, officially opening the park. More than 125,000 pounds of trash were removed in one day.

MORE: Cleanup day set to remove trash, build trails at Mad River Gorge

Mad River was also recently chosen as one of sixteen Leave No Trace 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.

“It’s great for Springfield and Clark County to have this nature park preserved forever for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy,” Kennard said. “We’re excited about that part of it. The award is like the icing on the cake.”

The climbing community has been using the park, as well as others hiking or walking dogs, she said.

“I think people are using it,” Kennard said. “When it’s nice weather, there are quite a few cars there on the weekend.”


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