A Brief History of the Poland Municipal Forest
oland Municipal Forest began over one hundred years ago in 1916 when Judge Rose of the Poland Manor Community Co. donated a 50 acre tract of land that wasn’t suitable for development of the Poland Manor Plat. This land, a largely open space along the lowlands became known as the Poland Manor Park. Another smaller tract of land, the salvage along Yellow Creek, was also donated by the Realty Security Co. during the creation of the Worthington Plat and added to the parklands as well. In 1935, Mrs. Henry Audubon (Grace) Butler donated a 150 acre tract of bottomland and pasture in memory of her late husband. Included in this tract of land was an area of forest known as Butler Woods. Together these lands, around 211 acres, along with future acquisitions by the Village would become the 264-acre forest we know today.
In 1938, the Village Council of Poland passed a municipal forest ordinance chapter 1062 to incorporate Judge Rose’s, Butler Woods and other donated parklands to create the Poland Municipal Forest. This ordinance, in compliance with Section No. 5650-1 of the Ohio General Code, allows for municipalities to accept donations of land suitable for the growth of timber and to manage them according to forestry principles. The ordinance passed by Village Council established the Forest as a self-sustaining enterprise for not less than twenty years and created a six person board of commissioners to oversee its care and maintenance. This original ordinance has been renewed and updated several times throughout the years.
The Forest footprint grew as parcels were added when available. Forest land extended west to South Avenue and south to Walker Mill Road. There were three entrances, located at College Lane, Gutknecht off Indian Trail, and South Avenue. The path and construction of Interstate 680 forced the Village to sell approximately 13 acres along the western border of the Forest. The Forest now abuts I-680 along the western property line.
The first major improvements to the Forest were made in 1940 when Jack Zedaker led a group of boys from the National Youth Administration. The project included the planting of trees, constructing two shelter houses and four footbridges, construction of trail markers, improvements to trails, and the creation of a parking area. Other improvements were to be made in each of the following years with the availability of funds, largely provided by local garden clubs, timber sales, and businesses. Other major projects would later include the building of a sanitary facility, additional parking areas, vehicle roads, a water well, several culverts, and the J. L. Mauthe Footbridge across Yellow Creek.
The Forest has experienced no less than three events threatening extensive devastation to the trees and land. These include a forest fire and two tornadoes, making no mention of the countless floods caused by rising creek waters and runoff or of the natural threats by invasive species such as the Emerald Ash Borer. In 1961, an agreement was struck with the East Ohio Gas Company to install a gas pipeline and two roads above the pipeline through the forest in exchange for access rights. These roads, one north-south known as the Butler Trail, and one east-west known as the Lower McKinley Trail, provide much needed fire breaks in the forest and allow access by fire trucks and emergency vehicles in the unfortunate event that they become necessary. Later in 1972, the Mahoning County Sanitary Engineers negotiated an easement to install a sanitary line running under I-680 through the Forest terminating at College Lane. An east-west inspection road placed upon this line is known as the Gutknecht Trail. Another north-south sanitary line was also installed in Forest property below the Thacher Trail.
The area of land surrounding Yellow Creek has long been known in the community for its beautiful Bluebells, and visitors from near and far gather every spring to witness the colorful bloom. The Forest also contains remarkably large numbers of other flora and fauna species and has been a longtime favorite of both educators and students alike. Recently, two globally rare plants, the spreading globeflower and heartleaf plantain were found. As a result of excessive and damaging deer grazing, a protective deer exclosure fence was built around the plants with help from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Mill Creek Metroparks and other organizations, host events in the forest helping to raise awareness of its incredible biodiversity.
Funds to support the care and maintenance of the forest almost exclusively come from donations of those individuals and organizations over the years that have grown to love it. The Poland Municipal Forest is primarily funded by monetary donations from citizens, organizations and the Poland Forest Foundation. The Poland Forest Foundation is a separate non-profit organization founded in 1959 by Village leaders. The Foundation’s mission is to help fund Forest capital improvements. Work in the forest is largely provided by volunteer’s labor throughout the year. The Forest Board hosts several events throughout the year calling upon the local community to aid in cleaning up and clearing of the forest and helping to control invasive species that threaten it. Other improvements in the forest have come in the form of Eagle Scout projects such as the entrance gateway and some footbridges while others have come in the form of improvements such as Bremner Shelter and the Susan Lovell Hadsell Memorial Footbridge.
Many people visit the forest each day and enjoy walking their dogs, hiking, jogging, winter cross-country skiing, and horseback riding on trails through its natural beauty.