Fall meadow looks lifeless, but it's time of renewal

Fall meadow looks lifeless, but it's time of renewal

When October arrives, we know it’s not summer according to the calendar, but the thermometer sometimes makes a convincing argument otherwise. There are just enough cool days to keep us preparing for all the changes that frost and cold will eventually bring, but we also are given enough warm days to complete those last few items on our summer to-do lists.

At this time in October, meadows are covered in every conceivable shade of brown with lots of grey also included in the mix. Even the goldenrod, which only a few weeks ago was a spectacular neon yellow wildflower, is now just another lifeless brown weed. Occasionally, you will see a few late-summer wildflowers adding dollops of color to an otherwise monochromatic scene.

If we could see the ground underneath the tall meadow grasses, we would see a lot of activity. The small mammals of the meadow like moles, voles and field mice certainly sense the changing seasons. These animals do not hibernate and are active throughout the winter.

Although it doesn't have the vibrancy of spring, a fall meadow landscape is still quite beautiful and promotes the calmness and self-reflection that is unique to this time of year. I’m always excited to see an open milkweed pod disbursing its beautiful mini-parachute seeds in the wind. What a beautiful metaphor for hope and renewal.

Things may look a bit lifeless in a fall meadow, but this is really a time of renewal and replanting. Everywhere seedpods are bursting and dispersing the raw materials to create the new generation of plants next spring.

Although things may look a bit forlorn and abandoned, preparations are well underway for the next growing season. I’m always humbled when I consider there is absolutely no need for humans to provide any help, advice or leadership. The meadow can renew itself just fine on its own, thank you.

Our newest park

The newest park in Wayne County just opened in early October. The William J. Robertson Nature Preserve in Rittman sits on the east side of the city on property left vacant by Caraustar-Rittman Paperboard in 2006.

As part of the paper production process, 13 settling ponds were created and make up most of the acreage on the north side of the preserve. Although the ponds are small, the largest is 4 feet deep and will be the location of an accessible kayak launch.

The preserve includes 210 acres and provides the Rittman community with 7.2 miles of walking and hiking trails, as well as opportunities for bird watching and kayaking. The development plan includes building several observation decks and pavilions at the site. These amenities will make the area a good destination for both hikers and picnickers.

Volunteers are always welcome at the preserve and play an essential role in both maintaining and enhancing the park. The preserve also will be able to use volunteer hours as matching funds to apply for grants and donations.

Take a hike

We still have many weeks of pleasant walking weather before the chilly factor sets in. For me the “chilly factor” has arrived when I go outside properly dressed for the weather but still feel a little shiver as I go out the door.

Of course, hiking is a good thing in any month of the year, but fall has its own special rewards. A maple tree in fall color is spectacular, and the crunch of leaves as you walk provides an audible reminder the seasons are changing.

Wayne County has excellent areas for hiking. Wooster Memorial Park has several trails that are as challenging and varied as those in state parks. We also have several excellent paved trails that have been specially designed for accessibility. Barnes Preserve and Oak Hill Park, for example, both have ample parking and well-planned paved trails that wind through diverse surroundings.

Johnson Woods near Orrville has a unique 1.4-mile wheelchair-accessible boardwalk. The park contains one of Ohio’s largest and best remaining old-growth forests. These are big trees — many rise 40-50 feet before the first limbs appear and can reach 120 feet tall with a diameter of 4-5 feet.

Many of the trees in Johnson Woods sprouted before the Pilgrims came to America. According to ODNR, “The size, age and history of Johnson Woods make it one of the most significant forest communities in Ohio.”

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