Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District's path to new and improved trails led to Charles Mill Lake Park. On Thursday evening, June 8, MWCD officials conducted a public input session at the Messerly Recreation Center in Charles Mill Lake Park.
MWCD officials -- members of a committee working on a trails master plan -- conducted a similar session in April at Pleasant Hill Lake Park. Those attending that session included representatives of the Mohican Malabar Bike Club, Mohican Trails Club, North Central Ohio Land Conservancy and Just Walk Richland. Their recommendations included linking the area's two MWCD facilities, Pleasant Hill Lake Park and Charles Mill Lake Park.
Those attending the Charles Mill Lake Park meeting also expressed interest in linking the two parks via back roads, which would be suitable for bicycling. About two dozen people attended the input session, including campers, residents of cottages on MWCD land around the lake and a regional planning official.
Another common thread between the two sessions was a recommendation to create trails linking the parks to nearby communities -- Mifflin to Charles Mill Lake Park and Perrysville to Pleasant Hill Lake Park. Another park in the region, Mohican State Park, is connected by paved bike path to the village of Loudonville.
John Olivier, who moderated the meeting, said MWCD expects to partner extensively with others to develop trails. That includes communities, organizations and public entities such as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ashland County Park District, Ohio Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps owns the land on which Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill dams are built. MWCD owns Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill lakes as well as the parks and land around them.
Olivier, MWCD deputy chief of marinas, is among about a half-dozen district officials serving on the committee to explore trail development. That includes trails that could link the parks and lakes to major recreational arteries in Ohio and beyond. He said MWCD has been working with the Buckeye Trail Association. That organization has established hiking trails pretty much covering the four corners of the state.
Regionally, MWCD trails at Pleasant Hill are already linked to Mohican Memorial State Forest, Mohican State Park, Malabar Farm State Park and a trail developed along Clear Fork of the Mohican River by the North Central Ohio Land Conservancy. The Clear Fork trail connects in Butler to the Richland B&O Trail.
Olivier said input from the Charles Mill session and ones at other MWCD facilities will be included in a conceptual draft plan. The trails committee will submit the draft plan to the MWCD board of directors by late summer.
Meanwhile, the draft plan will be posted online and the public will be welcome to provide input.