Soil and water

Commissioners hope to strengthen Penney Nature Center | Local News

In an effort to prepare the Penney Nature Center for public view and educational opportunities this year, Defiance County Commissioners led a spring cleaning of the natural area Friday morning.

But that’s just the start of additional improvement efforts at the 78-acre nature area between Ashpacher Road and Ohio 15 in Noble Township, which is owned by the Defiance County Soil and Water Conservation Office.

Commissioners have already commissioned signs that will direct visitors around the site, which includes a refuge and a number of trails. Lettering on older signs has faded and is hard to read.

Defiance County Commissioner Mick Pocratsky said perhaps three new trails were laid by volunteers through the wooded areas of the site in the past year. This year, the trails were to be marked with different colors and signs.

According to Commissioner Mick Pocratsky, officials are requesting $50,000 from the state capital budget through the offices of Napoleon’s 1st District Ohio Sen. Rob McColley and the district’s representative from the 82nd House of Napoleon. Ohio’s Craig Riedel of Defiance to help with upgrades. These awards are granted by the state government every two years for local capital expenditures.

“Our two local reps are focused on outdoor recreation opportunities,” Pocratsky said of the capital requests. “So that’s why we went with the Penney Nature Center.”

He said the county should know about the request next month.

However, he said The Crescent News that the commissioners will move forward with or without state funding. Improvements would include not only signage, but possibly an improved parking area near the nature center access point on Ashpacher Road and some small walkways.

“We’re working to make Penney Nature Center a destination of sorts,” he said. “We want to do some roadwork there to make the roads more school bus friendly and we want to expand the parking lot to make it more conducive to turning around with a bus.”

The county’s Soil and Water Conservation office has held nature-related camps for school children in the past and has two planned for June. But the general public is welcome on the site.

From the parking lot, a stone road leads visitors back into the natural area—often bordered by wetlands—before meandering and reaching the refuge about half a mile later. A sign on the refuge indicates the owners of the natural area – the county water and soil conservation office.

The nature center was established about 20 years ago after being donated by the Penney family – of the JC Penney Co. who for many years had a store in Defiance’s Northtowne shopping center – and is open to the public.