A parcel of donated farmland has become the latest gem in Wauseon’s crown.
On Oct. 2, a contingent of volunteers converged upon a wooded area adjacent to the city’s Homecoming Park to further enhance what is now designated Indian Hill Trail. A total of 40 trees were planted and eight benches installed alongside two multi-purpose trails carved into a natural setting replete with deciduous trees and an attractive wetland.
Indian Hill Trail has been a labor of love for land donor Ed Nofziger, the Wauseon Rotary Club, the city’s Tree Commission, and the Fulton Soil and Water Conservation District, along with local businessmen Nate Andre and Tim Dennis and other groups and individuals, all who have worked since 2017 to provide the premier trails for the city’s residents.
“As chairman of the committee, it’s been an enjoyable project to work on,” said Tom McWatters, Rotary Club member and project committee chair.
Joining the volunteers last week were 30 employees from Worthington Steel in Delta. The plant closes one day each year to allow staff to offer their services to community projects in Fulton County.
Wauseon Mayor Kathy Huner commended the employees’ efforts during Monday’s City Council meeting, saying, “To be able to shut down production for one day – that’s asking a lot of their company to do that. It was really a great day to see all of those people working.”
McWatters said volunteers had previously transformed a 60-foot-wide path between the trails into the 250-foot-wide corridor that now connects the north and south woods, whose trails measure .41 miles and .71 miles, respectively. During construction of the corridor a hill was formed on the south side, a wetland on the north side, and bluebird boxes were installed.
“We had a dream to convert it into more than a cowpath and make it an oasis, a destination of its own right,” he said.
When Ed Nofziger purchased the roughly 33 acres of farmland from George and Kurt Stuckey in 2016, he shared their vision of using it to expand Homecoming Park. Nofziger donated the land to the Wauseon Rotary Club, which consulted with professionals, then commissioned businessman Nate Andre to design a trail system for the two wooded areas included.
In the summer of 2017, businessman Tim Dennis carved out the trails.
The Fulton SWCD and the Rotary Club received an approximately $90,000 grant in April 2018 from the U.S. Forest Service to further the trail project. One month later, with help from about 90 volunteers from the Wauseon school district and community organizations, 400 oak, maple, hickory, and black walnut trees were planted to replace dead ash trees that had been removed. The project committee worked closely with adjacent neighbors, asking which species of trees they preferred to be planted.
Since then, the trails have been upgraded in some areas with an asphalt base and limestone surface to address wetness issues, and with pipes and culverts to manage water flow.
McWatters said the plan is to retain as much nature in the area as is possible. “It’s sort of an experimental process as we go. That’s something the public is really interested in,” he said.
In November, Andre and Tree Commission members will plant grass and wildflower seeds along the corridor.
One of the purposes behind the trails was to create a cross country course for the Wauseon school district, McWatters said. In 2017, the high school held its inaugural Fulton County Cross Country Invitational there, and later hosted a Northwest Ohio Athletic League meet.
Andre, a 1972 Wauseon High School graduate, said he has enjoyed the woods near his rural Wauseon home, “and now some other people can enjoy taking a walk in the woods. It’s peaceful, more quiet in the woods. And it’s a chance to see nature right in Wauseon.”
He said having an outside firm design the trails might have cost upwards of $10,000. He said because the community came together to work, “we didn’t have to spend a million dollars. It’s part of the ‘How Do You Give Back’ program. I was thrilled to be part of a project that’s forward thinking in Wauseon.”
Pete Carr, a District Technician III for the Fulton SWCD who oversaw the tree plantings, said the conservation, wetland, and oak savanna portions of Indian Hill Trail are what inspired him to get involved.
The project is still receiving finishing touches, but when it’s done the city will be the recipients, Nofziger said. He is satisfied with the current results.
“To me, it was probably one of the most fun projects I was ever part of,” he said. “We need trails and nature to teach our kids and families. It’s educational. And it becomes an asset to our community. We’re making a difference in our hometown of Wauseon.”