Hobart Urban Nature Preserve

A piece of Heaven in the middle of the city

By Tor Simms

Photo: The Hobart Urban Nature Preserve has its own ecosystem that supports a 3-acre wildlife pond; photo: Miami County Park District

If someone were to ask you what are some of the Miami County’s best kept secrets, one of your replies should be The Hobart Urban Nature Preserve. Simply put, the preserve is the only park in the Miami County park system within city limits. This uncommon ease of access makes it truly unique and it has become one of the most visited parks in the area. Located in the heart of Troy, the preserve is comprised of 82 wild acres of land left in its natural state. The vast landscape transitions from woodlands to prairies to wetlands. The preserve is also crisscrossed with biking and hiking trails and the local wildlife that is left to roam freely enhances the experience. The preserve also serves as an artistic showcase for four huge wielded steel sculptures that were donated to the preserve by The Hobart Institute of Welding Technology.

The donation that made it possible

The Hobart Family of Troy, Ohio who founded the Hobart Corporation that made mixers and created and ran Hobart Welding, owned a large property of farmland for over 100 years. In 1997, the family decided to donate the 80-plus acres to the Miami County Park District.

“The Hobart family was extremely generous with their donation because the property was worth a lot of money, says J. Scott Myers, the executive director of the Miami County Park District. “It could have been developed into numerous things, like businesses, housing or anything along those lines, so for them to think of turning it into a nature preserve for folks to enjoy was tremendous! When you think of 89 acres you could develop that into a housing development at $30,000 to $40,000 an acre that’s worth a lot of money, that’s quite generous of them to think of the community.”

After the land was donated in 1997, it would take the next 9 years to develop the property. The main challenge was to complete an extensive two-phase plan to transition the farmland into a full-fledged park. “The preserve finally opened in August of 2006,” Myers says. “It took quite a bit of time to get the funds as far as the grants and all of those things in order to develop it.”

The Miami County Park Districts

The Park District operates 15 parks with over 2,000 acres, but this is its only park located in the middle of a city.

“The Hobart Urban Nature Preserve is the only preserve that is within the city,” Myers echoes. “All other parks are outside of the city limits in the rural areas. So having such a rich natural presence inside city limits gives the citizens of Troy and the Miami County a little bit of heaven in an urban area.”

The entire park district gets 600,000 visitors per year. The Hobart is estimated to attract around 30,000 per year.

“Our car counters have us at 30,000 visitors per year but there are a lot of folks who live in the area who walk or bike to the park also,” Myers says. “The Miami County Park District oversees and maintains the preserve. We do it all, we open and close it every day, we employ 17 full-time employees and numerous part-time employees that make up administration, maintenance, and we have a very large environmental educational program. The park district is funded by a property tax levy that the citizens of Miami County vote on. The last time it was on the ballot in 2009, it passed with a 63 percent yes vote.

“We have another more unique method of raising funds for the preserve,” Myers continues. “It’s a program called ‘One Tree at A Time;’ after you donate, your name is engraved on a brick in a walkway and the funds are put back into the preserve for tree planting and other improvements in the park. You can also memorialize someone or recognize someone. This program has really helped to allow us to develop the park.”

The features

The park has its own ecosystem that supports a 3-acre wildlife pond, boasting waterfowl, migratory birds, amphibians and fish. Its vast prairies feature deer, foxes, coyotes and wild flowers, while its woodland areas are home to many permanent bird species and an infinite number of tree species.

Other park features include 2.26 miles of trails for walking, hiking or biking, a donor recognition area and four huge welded sculptures.

Programs and activities

The Miami County Park District runs numerous school programs at several of its 15 parks, thanks to its substantial environmental education program. The Hobart Preserve is included as one of them.

The park offers other year round programs for adults and children.

The Hobart Urban Nature Preserve also hosts the following activities; trail running, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, walking and bird watching.

The Hobart Urban Nature Preserve is located at 1400 Tyrone Road in Troy. For more information, please call 937.335.6273, or visit MiamiCountyParks.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Tor Simms at TorSimms@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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