Natural beauty is one of Ohio’s best selling points


My brother-in-law once had this distorted vision of what Ohio was all about — just endless corn fields in the summer, and then blizzards and bitter cold in the winter. It was a very gloomy picture.

In his mind’s eye, the place was flat, nondescript, devoid of character, and the only mountains were those made of plowed and drifted snow. And there was very little in the way of woods and wildlife.

Some background: He’s from San Diego by way of Vancouver, so he has lived his life in two places where postcard photos originate. That made the beauty of the Buckeye State a tougher sell, but this is a very smart guy with a sense of humor so dry that his best lines evaporate before some people can process them. He has a big heart, is endlessly generous, and he possesses a metric ton of patience (remember, he’s Canadian, and he married my sister).

Although Peter could not have loved his in-laws more or been more accepting and accommodating of them, he wanted nothing to do with their Ohio homeland. My mission, now in its third decade, has been to convince him that this is a great place in its own right, just different than the hilly, seaside community of La Jolla, and different from the temperate charm of Vancouver.

Now, The Nature Conservancy is again helping me sell the wonders of the Buckeye State to Peter. The organization is staging another round of the “Natural Treasures” sweepstakes it ran in 2012, and encouraging Ohioans to get outdoors, do some exploring, and experience the state’s most beautiful places.

Peter has an open mind and is slowly coming around, but the evidence I have already passed along to him is substantial — Hocking Hills, the Lake Erie Islands, Oak Openings, Mohican State Park, Amish country, the Blue Hole, the old growth forest of Dysart Woods, the Great Serpent Mound — but anything that can reinforce the point is utilized, whether natural or manmade. I expect the “Natural Treasures” contest will supply me with some potent additional ammo.

This year’s challenge won’t start until Aug. 1, but the scouting and planning is already under way. Any site that reflects Ohio’s natural beauty is fair game. The challenge runs through the end of September, with the winner receiving a new Honda Civic Hybrid. The full set of rules and the contest description can be found at http://nature.org.

Such a competition fits right in with The Nature Conservancy’s foundational message. For more than half a century the organization has been protecting Ohio’s most vital natural areas and now has some 60,000-plus acres under its stewardship. The “Natural Treasures” challenge is designed to coax folks to learn about the many gems that are out there, and about the unique natural features located in the state, and go visit them.

“Natural Treasures highlights the diversity of our state’s extraordinary natural areas, and it shows families that experiencing nature is closer and easier than you think,” said Josh Knights, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. “If Ohioans discover and come to know these areas, they’ll be inspired to help us protect them.”

And brag about them.

The framework is pretty simple — visit one or more of some of Ohio’s best natural areas and record the visit with a “selfie” that includes a significant chunk of the surroundings.

Upload your photos to the contest Web site, and you are in the running for the Honda.

The Web site also has a map of the locations of the top wonders of Ohio, but entries are not limited to what is listed on the map.

I am certain that once Peter sees the visual evidence of a whole new array of Ohio wonders, he will be convinced that this is a great place to live, or visit.

LAKE ERIE PHOTO CONTEST: Images of our Great Lake are being sought for the Ohio Lake Erie Commission’s “2014 Life on Lake Erie” photo contest. Digital and film images are both eligible in this competition that seeks out the essence of Lake Erie life. The contest even has a category for winter photos, since so many dramatic images came out of our recent frozen months. Entries are open to amateur photographers 18 and older, for photos taken between Aug 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014, anywhere throughout the Lake Erie watershed. Entry forms and information on how to submit photos are available at lakeerie.ohio.gov.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.