September 29, 2014 ~ Jeffersonville, OH to Miamisburg, OH
In my map box, I had an Ohio Prairie pamphlet. These are the tallgrass prairies here in the Midwest with several areas in southwestern Ohio. I used to think of prairies as mostly a monoculture of waving grasses but:
Tallgrass prairies are an extremely complicated web of life. At first sight, one sees a landscape dominated by grasses. Eighty percent of the foliage is indeed made up of grasses, from 40 to 60 different species. The other 20% of the primary vegetation is made up of over 300 species of forbs or flowers. The prairie also has over 100 species of lichens and liverworts as well as numerous species of woody trees and shrubs along creeks and protected areas.
Historically, periodic fires and grazing (buffalo) helped maintain these landscapes, but the plow changed that. Wikipedia states that "99% of the original tallgrass prairie is now farmland." Of course the birds and mammals dependent on them disappeared also. Today, remnants are found in old cemeteries, railroad rights-of-way, on high bluffs above rivers. And there are the restoration projects.
Possum Creek MetroPark is one of the places where tallgrass prairies are being restored. I wandered about several habitats in this peaceful park, trying to imagine a tallgrass prairie to the horizon. This time of year, it is a melange of drying flora, including autumn wildflowers, not brushy or woodsy or impenetrable but still dense with plants 6-8 feet in height and home for an insect orchestra. The bugs were much fewer in the woods. Instead, dry and crinkled leaves dropped continuously - a leaf rain - making a crackling sound as they landed. I stood with my eyes closed and that was all I heard, other than an occasional buzz or a very sporadic bird call...a relatively uncommon wood-music.
It was 85 degrees, not humid, sunny, with few other park visitors. Many of these preserved places have educational and/or historical information at the trailheads. I came on two old rusted streetcar frames back in the woods, leftover from the days when a WWI veteran bought the land and created a grand park for the people.
Argonne Forest Park was founded in 1930 by Daytonian Null Hodapp, who returned from WWI and had a successful career as a judge in the area. Null purchased nearly 400 acres of wooded land along Germantown Pike and named the property Argonne Forest Park in honor of the Unit he served in during the war. Development of the park began with the construction of a veteran’s clubhouse. Behind the clubhouse, to the south, was a carnival-like midway. Development of the clubhouse area was followed by other additions. These included a swimming hole and diving platform, baseball diamond, shooting range, dance hall, pony and horse tracks, and a figure-eight auto race track.
|Possum Creek MetroPark - OH (near Dayton)|
I am a reluctant historian but keep coming on fascinating vignettes, like this one but go right on by thousands of others. Wherever I travel in this country, here are the back stories...
Indecisive about my immediate next NWR, I found a Starbucks, then very unexceptional Mexican food and finally a Walmart.