The Nature Conservancy in the Buckeye State is going on the offensive. They have heard all the promos for this distant paradise or that vacation wonderland, and then decided to strike up the band and blow Ohio's horn in a pseudo retaliatory response.
They are not criticizing the Outer Banks, the Smoky Mountains, the Finger Lakes, or Pure Michigan -- all picturesque and beautiful in their own right. The home team of naturalists just got the notion that there were more than a few gems right here in the heart of the Midwest that needed a little ballyhooing.
"We get bombarded with ads for other places, and we felt like it was time to market some of the best of what Ohio has to offer," said Josh Knights, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. "You don't need to pack up and drive 14 hours to experience something truly wonderful. There are a lot of these great places right here."
After extensive deliberation, the group came up with a list of 30 natural areas that it felt showcased the best of what Ohio has to offer. Knights said they looked for a wide diversity of landscapes, a good geographic representation, and made sure at least half of the list was populated with sites that are accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"We did not have to scramble to find 30 -- we had to cut back," Knights said. "We think this will open people's eyes to some phenomenal locations in Ohio. This state is not just croplands and big cities."
Six of northwest Ohio's supermodels made the list in this beauty contest. The Kitty Todd Nature Preserve on Old State Line Road, north of Toledo Express Airport; Side Cut Metropark along the Maumee River; Magee Marsh Wildlife Area along the Lake Erie shoreline near Davis-Besse nuclear power plant; East Sandusky Bay Metro Park near Huron; Wildwood Preserve Metropark off Central Avenue, and Kelleys Island State Park are cited among the state's top natural wonders.
The group is providing an additional incentive to get folks out to explore the best of the natural areas in Ohio -- a chance to win a new car. The Nature Conservancy in Ohio and Honda have joined forces to create a summer challenge called "Natural Treasures of Ohio," with the top prize being a 2012 Honda Insight Hybrid. Five second-place winners will receive $500 REI gift cards in the contest, which runs through Aug. 8.
To enter, Ohio residents visit one or more of these specially selected areas and then upload a photo of themselves with that site's designated landmark. If you get your picture taken by a tree or a rock, that's a nice photo for your personal collection, but it won't get you in the contest -- your entry has to come accompanied by a shot taken with the designated landmark.
Knights hopes the promotion creates an army of new fans of Ohio's natural wonders.
"At the end of the day, people don't stand up for things they don't know about," he said. "People need to care about these places, and once they visit them, they will be interested in them and appreciate them. Experience something like Kelleys Island or Magee Marsh and you will develop an emotional connection to that place."
That is the exact reaction Scott Carpenter of the Metroparks hopes to observe once contestants in the Nature Conservancy promotion visit Side Cut and Wildwood.
"Our mantra here states that once you visit the parks, you will support the parks. Getting people out to the parks and these other natural areas for the first time is so important," he said.
Carpenter also hopes to see a contagion at work as Metroparks regulars expand their outdoors horizons via the campaign.
"A lot of folks have a favorite park and visit that same one with regularity, but we have nine of them, and if this gets people out to visit the other parks in the system, then it's mission accomplished," he said. "This is not a case of 'you've seen one, you've seen them all' by any stretch, so we encourage everyone to visit all of our parks."
Carpenter added a plea that all six sites representing northwest Ohio on this elite list receive a flood of new visitors, promising a memorable experience at each one.
"We are in a lot of great company on that list," he said.
Details and entry information for the promotion "Natural Treasures of Ohio" can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/ohionatureconservancy or at nature.org/naturaltreasuresohio.
HARBOR VIEW REGATTA: Harbor View Yacht Club in Oregon will celebrate its 60th anniversary in conjunction with the organization's annual regatta, scheduled for June 22-23 at the club on Autokee Street. The event runs from 5 p.m. until midnight on June 22 and from noon to midnight on June 23. Rib dinners will be available the first day of the regatta and chicken dinners on the second day. Musical entertainment includes the dance band Moon Dog, guitarist Johnny Rodriguez, and the classic rock band The Maxx Band. There will be a gift basket auction and a souvenir and clothing sale throughout the weekend. A supervised children's play area will also be in operation. The event is open to the public, with free parking and dockside help for arrivals by boat. Additional information is available from Chuck Martin at 419-698-8128 or 419-466-3167.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6068.