As we reflect on the 50th anniversary of Preservation Parks, we are sharing brief histories of how each park came together. Look for a different park each month and then be sure to enjoy a special staff-led hike or program in that park.
Shale Hollow Park History
The history of Shale Hollow Park began in 2004 when Preservation Parks received funding from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA). As a member of the OEPA’s Water Resource and Restoration Sponsorship Program (WRRSP), Preservation Parks was able to use these funds to purchase a combined 60 acres from Planned Communities, Inc., and Donald Hollenback west of U.S. Route 23. Later, in 2006, funding from the Clean Ohio Greenspace Program allowed for the acquisition of 10.5 adjoining acres. Funding from the Clean Ohio Program was also used to purchase an additional 5.1 adjoining acres, as well as a house and garage in 2007.
That same year, a creek conservation easement was established with an adjacent landowner. A conservation easement is a legal contract in which a landowner agrees to abstain from or limit the development of their property to allow for ecological succession to occur. This easement was specifically put in place for the restoration and protection of the Big Run Creek, a biologically diverse ecosystem filled with numerous species of crayfish, darters, and aquatic insects, which flows through Shale Hollow Park until its termination into the Olentangy River.
In 2008 and 2009, additional grants were received from the Clean Ohio Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as a loan from the Ohio EPA, allowing for the purchase of 104 adjoining acres from Iris de la Motte, taking the size of the park from 75.6 acres to nearly 180 acres.
In 2012, a building and garage were purchased from MAC Construction, Inc. This building would later be renovated into a workshop and offices for the District’s Operations Department, as well as the headquarters of the Preservation Parks Division of Park Police. That same year, Preservation Parks received a 1.55-acre land donation from M/I Homes. This property, as well as the newly acquired de la Motte property, was planted with 2,200 native tree seedlings to aid in reforestation.
2013 was a big year in Shale Hollow Park history. During this time the focus was on the construction of park infrastructure, including an entrance drive, gravel hiking trails, renovations to the newly acquired McKay Lodge, and several bridges across Big Run. After the completion of these amenities, Shale Hollow Park was officially opened to the public on December 8, 2013.
Following the opening of Shale Hollow Park, improvements continued on the property with additional features and land acquisition. In 2015, 23.14 adjoining acres were purchased from Rockford Homes and the Hollenback family with funding from the Clean Ohio Program. In 2016, construction of the Shale Hollow Park natural play area was finished, allowing families to engage with nature in a fun and interactive way. During the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020, visitation to Shale Hollow Park skyrocketed because of the quarantine. To protect the natural flora in the natural play area from the increased foot traffic, protective rope fencing was placed around sections of the natural play area, to help protect the beautiful spring wildflowers.
To this day, Shale Hollow remains a perfect location for viewing Ohio’s boundless biodiversity. The park is a great location to spot many spring wildflowers, such as bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, Solomon’s seal, and many other species. Big Run Creek continues to be a wonderful area to discover aquatic life and encounter the amazing geological features of Ohio’s prehistory, such as the ironstone concretions dotting the stream, and with the addition of the outdoor shelter in 2023, the opportunities to encounter nature at Shale Hollow only seems to grow.