Dean State Forest remains closed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2004

Decatur Township - The February 2003 ice storms have long since melted but the damage has kept the Dean State Forest "on ice" for the public.

One of Ohio's first state forests, established in June 1916, the 2,745 acres of forest has remained closed for more than a year as cleanup from the ice storms continue in the rich forest that is home to towering trees and much wildlife.

"We have the roads and trails closed while we are continuing the cleanup," said Bob Boyles, District 5 forester with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Forestry. "We have log trucks going in and out and those roads are just so narrow and curvy.

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"The ice storm was terrible. It really wreaked havoc at this place."

Knowing that the area is beautiful this time of year now that the leaves are fading to rich shades of yellows, reds and oranges, Boyles said they hope to begin reopening parts of the forest to the public on weekends, especially when deer gun season starts.

Once that happens, the public can again visit the winding, gravel roads that seem to transport visitors back in time to an age when Ohio was still wild, unsettled land.

"It used to be one of the best manicured forests," Boyles said. "It truly is just a beautiful scenic forest."

The forest includes approximately 20 miles of horse and hiking trails that provide a scenic trek through the woods. Several small ponds are located within the state forest. Mushroom and ginseng hunting have become popular activities.

Natural and man-made disaster is nothing new to the forest.

From the early 1800s to about 1900, much timber was cut to fuel the blast furnaces at nearby iron furnaces. The forest had also been victim to many fires. When the state purchased the land in 1916, it was barren and became a reforestation experiment that now includes towering white pines, red pine and tulip trees.

One silver-lining from the ice storms is that the forest tree tops have been cleaned out, allowing sunlight to hit the forest floor, Boyles said.

"It has changed the habitat. It will be like a new forest," he said. "This will be unique and unlike any other forest in the state of Ohio."