CRAWFORD COUNTY — Area residents don’t have to go far to experience the great outdoors. Crawford County has many opportunities to enjoy nature and outdoor habitat within the Crawford Park District.
The park district was established in 1994 with a leaf project, said Crawford Park District Director Josh Dyer. “The first park that was gifted to us was donated to the district by Marie Unger in 1997. That is now Unger Park over in Bucyrus.”
“In 1998 or 1999, Lloyd Volk donated this park (Lowe-Volk Park). It was opened up in 2000 and in 2002 the Nature Center was dedicated,” he said. “The name for the park doesn’t just come from Lloyd’s side of the family, but also his mother’s side, the Lowes. That’s where the name comes from.”
Lowe-Volk Park is at 2401 Ohio 598 between Galion and Crestline and boasts many opportunities for fun and learning. It sits on 38 acres, with a quarter-acre pond, and a wetlands area. There are hiking trails through the woods that are partly accessible, with a boardwalk for wheelchairs and strollers that leads to an overlook deck, a perfect place to take in the views of the Sandusky River.
“The Sandusky River starts right here at Lowe-Volk Park,” Dyer said. “Paramore Creek and Allen Run converge about 100 yards into the woods.” .
Dyer said county residents were generous in 2012 when they passed a 10-year 0.4 mill levy to help fund the park district. “That will be up for renewal in 2022,” he said. “It funds the staff and general operations, as well as some capital improvement projects we needed.”
Lowe-Volk Park’s Nature Center has many animals and displays.
“It has a vaulted ceiling. and a few years ago we worked with some designers out of Mansfield and we came up with our Learning Tree out there. That’s been very popular,” Dyer noted. “We have the children’s library and we have people come in and watch the birds through the Window of the Wild. They can watch the bird feeders and there is a water feature. A lot of people lcome out and watch the birds.
“We also have meeting rooms and classrooms. Lowe-Volk is also the central hub for all our parks.”
The Park District also can take its act on the road.
“We are part of the community, and we want to contribute to the community,” Dyer said. “We go to every school in the county and to put on programs that are natural history-related. They go hand-in-hand with what teachers are doing in the classroom. We try to utilize our wildlife ambassadors within that program concept.”
There are monthly events that have gotten bigger and better through the years.
“There is Earth Day Fair in April, and Arrowhead Day in March is very popular. In May we have a pancake breakfast that is pretty-well received and we also band birds that same morning,’ he said. “In June, we have our Living History Days.”
Dyer said that program started as one-day event and now has turned into a Friday night, Saturday and Sunday event.
“It’s definitely growing,” he said. “It’s a great event, with not only natural history of the area, but the cultural history of the area with the Native Americans and Col. Crawford.
“In July we have another large event, our Animal Extravaganza. In August we have our water carnival and in September we do another event at another park. October is our biggest, with the Halloween Family Fun Night, ” he said.”I think this year we had over 1,500 people come through here in three hours.”
A lot of staff and volunteers help put on Halloween Family Fun Night, and Dyer is working to figure how many volunteer hours were spent on that event alone.”
The park district also hosts a summer nature camp each year at Lowe-Volk Park. Dyer said the series is eight weeks long and hosts a new group of kids each week. He said about 260 kids take part in the camp each year with registration opening up March 1.
“It fills up in a matter of days,” Dyer said.
Field trips to the park are also pretty popular. And if naturalists or volunteers are busy with programs at a school, a lot of times the schools will bring students to the nature center for a day of fun.
“For six weeks in the spring, we basically have a field trip group out here every day,’ he said.
Volunteers are key to the park district’s success.
“There are a lot of volunteer hours with everything we do,” Dyer said. “I can’t thank our volunteers enough or express the importance or the significance of the volunteers who come out and help put on good, successful events. We couldn’t do it without them, and we are very much appreciative of them.”
Lowe-Volk Park hosts other smaller events, too. Visit the park district website at www.crawfordparkdistrict.org for a list of programsr. There is other contact information, too. Call 419-683-9000 for information.
Crawford Park District sites include:
- Heckert Nature Preserve is between Galion and Bucyrus on Ohio 19 near the old amusement park site.
- Sandusky Headwaters Preserve is across the road from Lowe-Volk , and is not yet open to the public.
- Sears Woods State Nature Preserve and Daughmer State Nature Preserve are owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, but managed by the park district. Sears Woods is on Mount Zion Road in Bucyrus. The Daughmer preserve is on Marion-Melmore Road in Bucyrus.
“We also have a hunting area in the Sandusky Wildlife area that’s on the west side of Bucyrus,” he said. “That’s a lottery style hunt. You come to a drawing and people get drawn to be able to hunt there on certain dates. It’s not open to the public.”
As for the future, Dyer said a nature playscapeis being installed at Lowe-Volk Park.
“We started with some sandstone blocks because here at Lowe-Volk Park — back in the 1800s and early 1900s — they used to quarry sandstone out of here,” he said, noting he has an Eagle Scout adding some other features to it.
Josh Dyer is director of the Crawford Park District, which was established 25 years ago. Lowe-Volk Park is the hub of park district activity, and it opened in 2000.
Program at the Crawford Park District are geared to all ages, but many cater to young children. Toddler Trots provide lots of hands-on experiences for kids.
The Learning Tree, within the Nature Center at Lowe-Volk, Park is a popular to hang out and experience nature.
When weather permits, park district visitors head outside to experience nature and local habitat and animals. But during inclement, there is plenty to do inside, too.