More than 80% of the Park District's 16,000 plus acres are dedicated to natural areas. That's 18 square miles of greenspace! These natural areas feature a picturesque collection of natural habitats, from wetlands to prairies to mature forests.
The Resource Quality Department is responsible for monitoring and marking nearly 14,000 acres of property, totaling 166 miles of park boundaries. The department conducts boundary surveys on several miles of park boundary per year. The Resource Quality staff also work with Park District Rangers to investigate dumping and encroachments in the parks, and work with property owners to clean up problem areas and allow areas to revert back to wildlife habitat. Volunteers assist the Park District by walking property lines and notifying staff of areas that need marked, or that have encroachment. Since the formation of the department, the staff has located and eliminated pollution sources throughout the county with the help of various other public agencies
If you are interested in volunteering within the Resource Quality Department, email email@example.com.
The Hamilton County Park District has a Contractual Research Program whereby students, teachers and other qualified persons can submit there own research proposal ideas, or choose one from a list generated by Park District staff, to be considered for funding in our parks. Each year the research committee decides which research should be funded. Approved proposals often include several projects accomplished at no cost to the Park District. Past research includes a wide variety of topics, from vascular plant and animal resource studies, to invasive species control and native plant restoration.
Park District staff and volunteers have conducted vegetative cover mapping of most of the Hamilton County Parks to help determine the number of acres or percentages of each habitat type found in our parks. This is helpful information when determining habitat type needs for various wildlife populations. Color coded maps can be generated for each park showing the different habitat types.
If left unmowed for 50 years or more, your own backyard would grow into a forest through a process called natural succession. Each year, new plant species (along with the animals that depend on them) would appear, gradually replacing sun-loving species with more shade tolerant species. A brushland would eventually develop, then slowly turn into a young, medium and old woodland. Each stage is comprised of a unique assemblage of plants and animals.
While most of the Park District's natural areas are comprised of critically needed mature forests, managing these various other stages of "succession" is also important in maintaining the widest diversity of plants and animals for park visitors to enjoy.
There are two types of grasslands found in the Hamilton County Park District. The first is the native prairie that consists of a wide variety of different forb species (flowers) and several varieties of mostly warm season grasses. Most of these areas have been created over many years by Land Management. The best management practice for this type of grassland is the use of prescribed fire in the late winter to early spring and late fall to early winter.
The second type of grassland that is managed by the Park District is cool season grasslands or meadows. These grasslands are typically made up of non-native grasses and forbs, although many native species do persist in these areas. These areas are managed differently than the native grasslands because they are not adapted to fire. These areas are managed by mowing, typically starting in July and continued through the growing season to keep woody trees and shrubs from taking over.
To survive fires, prairie plants have evolved into deep-rooted perennials. Fires once occurred naturally from lightning and were deliberately started by Native Americans to drive game, kill unwanted insects, improve pasture and make travel easier.
The Park District carefully uses fire as a valuable tool in managing this ecosystem. Besides controlling unwanted woody growth, burning warms the ground to promote early seed germination, adds nutrients to the soil and helps control exotic (non-native) plant species. Controlled burning is conducted by a well-trained and equipped mobile crew of park employees to ensure safety.
Wetlands are the most productive ecosystem in North America. They provide vital nesting and foraging areas for birds, small mammals and invertebrates, spawning areas for many important fish and shellfish, and habitat for unique vegetation. They also serve as storage areas for floodwater, buffers to storms, protection from erosion and filters for sedimentation and other forms of environmental contamination. In fact, wetlands are sometimes referred to as the “kidneys of our landscape”.
Since pioneer times, 95 % of Ohio’s wetlands have been lost, making them one of our most endangered ecosystems. As a result, wildlife dependent on wetlands have suffered as well. Approximately 33% of Ohio’s endangered and threatened plants and animals live in wetland habitat. In response to the loss of wetlands, the Hamilton County Park District began an ambitious wetland restoration project in 1991. More than 120 acres of former wetland habitat has been restored in Miami Whitewater Forest. These areas had been drained during the past century for agricultural purposes.
The newly restored Shaker Trace Wetlands are located west of Oxford Road and both north and south of Baughman Road. Much of the wetlands can be seen from the outer loop of the Shaker Trace Multi-Purpose Trail that also meanders through farmland, restored prairies and wooded stream corridors. The best place to view the wetlands is from the 2-mile mark.
Biological Stream Monitoring supplements water quality data by determining what aquatic invertebrates (small creatures without a backbone) are found in a stream. Since some invertebrates are sensitive to pollutants and others are tolerant, different types are assigned point values that correspond to their pollution tolerance. A sensitive invertebrate, such as a mayfly nymph, is worth three points. A moderately tolerant type, such as a crayfish, is worth two points. A tolerant type, such as a sowbug, is worth only one point. The total score of a given stream will indicate how good the water quality is. Streams that support populations of a variety of invertebrates from all three groups score highest and are therefore of the best quality. Biological stream monitoring is conducted by volunteers.
Those interested in assisting with stream monitoring can call (513) 521-PARK or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Water Quality Monitoring
Water Quality Monitoring is accomplished by sampling streams and lakes monthly, during the warm seasons. Routine tests include ammonia as nitrogen, nitrate, nitrite, ortho-phosphate, total phosphate, temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, turbidity, and chlorophyll a.