Geauga Park District’s first naturalist, Duane Ferris, often spoke of his favorite walk at one of his favorite places, Eldon Russell Park, for its scenic views of the property and natural wetland.
Today this walk is an official trail, named for him and open for everyone to explore, in line with his mission to connect people to the natural world.
All three of Mr. Ferris’ children, as well as a son-in-law and a granddaughter, were present for the trail’s official unveiling one recent mid-August morning, as were Geauga Park District Executive Director John Oros, Chief Naturalist John Kolar, and Naturalist Dan Best, who all took a hand in its creation by the Planning and Operations Departments.
“The family said over and over how thankful they were,” said Chief Naturalist John Kolar. “It was a great day!”
Led afield by an unrelenting curiosity, Mr. Ferris lived in sync with Nature’s rhythms, and this half-mile trail features a scenic overlook inspiring others to also experience these rhythms.
During his tenure from 1968 to 1979 working weekends for Geauga Park District while a science teacher at Kenston High School, Mr. Ferris established programming, produced the first park newsletter, and served as a valued advisor to the park board and director on matters of land acquisition and park development. When health issues dictated retirement from full-time work, he was named Naturalist Emeritus and remained highly active as a park volunteer until his death in 2004.
“With both swamp and upland forest, meadow, kettle hole wetlands adjacent to the Upper Cuyahoga River, this park – one of Geauga Park District’s first – held great allure for Duane’s passions for bird life, botany and glacial geology,” said Naturalist Dan Best. “He envisioned an expansion of the trail system that would provide access to a greater portion of this ecologically rich park.”
Mr. Ferris’ contagious enthusiasm for the natural world inspired many toward Nature study, conservation and pride in our county’s magnificent natural heritage, wrote Executive Director John Oros in a recent editorial for the current incarnation of Geauga Park District’s newsletter, the fall Park Explorer Activity Guide.
“In 1994, when I came to work for Geauga Park District, I had the privilege of working with Duane on wagon rides at Swine Creek Reservation,” Oros wrote. “His audience listened intently as we strolled through the woods. Duane reveled in sharing the natural world around him. He was a gifted interpreter of Nature, and a positive influence worth celebrating today.
“The opening of a new Nature trail in honor of Duane is a celebration of his life and legacy joining our newest accomplishment,” Oros continued. “The trail is something our residents will utilize and enjoy for years to come. It’s a culmination of past joining present, then meeting now.”
The Duane Ferris Trail trailhead is located along the parking area closest to the park’s entrance at 16315 Rapids Road in Burton Township. A great birding area rich in many kinds of plant and animal life, this trail continues through mature beech/maple/oak forest, a dense young woodland of overgrown orchard and pasture of a former farm, and a white pine stand dating back to state reforestation efforts of the 1950s. It also circumvents a glacial kettle: a wetland depression left by a melting chunk of retreating glacial ice.
Plan your visit to the new Duane Ferris Trail soon using the new Geauga Park District.
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Cover Photo Courtesy of the Geauga Park District