Editor’s Note

This story is part of an ongoing partnership between The Ohio State University Mansfield and Richland Source. For more, click here.

Ohio State Mansfield’s campus is not just your average academic institution. Nestled amidst 640 acres of woods, the college offers a unique experience with its walking trails.

The four complete routes serve as a gateway to nature, inviting both students and the local community to embark on an outdoor adventure while doubling as an outdoor classroom.

One of the highlights is the Legacy Trail, a picturesque route spanning approximately three-tenths of a mile. This trail weaves its way through the landscape, captivating walkers and nature enthusiasts alike.

“The Legacy Trail is in the shape of a lollipop, a great trail to walk if you have a free hour or are on your lunch break and want to take a leisurely walk and maybe learn something along the way,” Associate Professor at the School of Environment and Natural Resources at the Mansfield campus, Gabriel Karns said.

The campus boasts several other trails, each offering a distinctive loop or path, allowing visitors to choose their own adventure.

trail class

The trails provide a dynamic, hands-on learning experience that transcends the limitations of traditional lecture halls. Acting as an extension of the classroom, these trails immerse students in the natural world, bridging the gap between theory and practice, and fostering a profound connection with nature.

“Instead of teaching certain concepts on a powerpoint slide alone, I bring classes out here,” Karns said. “As I teach, we see and touch the concept in the field and then we go back and reflect on how the two ways of learning merge together for a better understanding of the topic.”

For the community, the trails offer an escape into the realm of nature, offering a chance to explore and learn about the environment firsthand. The campus hosts a range of engaging workshops and events open to the public.

These educational gatherings cover diverse topics, including tree identification, woodland fungi and wildlife. While some events require a small registration fee, others, such as the highly anticipated annual pollinator event near the pollinator plots in front of Ovalwood Hall, are free for all to enjoy.

“We are here to educate the campus community and anyone else that wants to come in to learn,” Wildlife Program Director at the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State Mansfield, Marne Titchenell said.

new signage

Recognizing the value of enhancing the trail experience, the college recently invested in new signage, with plans for trailhead kiosks and additional educational boards on the horizon. These improvements aim to provide visitors with information about the environment, encouraging them to delve deeper into their surroundings. The project remains an ongoing endeavor, with more signs and updates slated for future implementation.

“It’s important for people to have a space where they can be out in nature for their physical and mental wellbeing. Hopefully the signs will help students and the public to think and learn a little bit more while enjoying the trails,” Extension Program Director at the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State Mansfield, Kathy Smith said.

By allowing students and the community to immerse themselves in the beauty of the woods, the trails kindle a profound understanding and appreciation for the natural world, fostering a deep sense of responsibility to protect and preserve it.

For more information about the Ohio State Mansfield or the campus trails, visit their website.


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