EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Ohioans have long been drawn to the woods and waters of their beloved Buckeye State.
Ohio’s system of state parks was officially formed in 1949 when the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was created, but it has its roots in the 19th century.
When the canal era ended in Ohio, a number of artificial lakes and surrounding lands became popular destinations for outdoor recreation and family outings. Those lands, including Ohio’s first state park, Buckeye Lake, were combined with forest parks, such as Hocking Hills, to become the foundation of today’s modern system.
In the early 1900s, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt inspired the nation with his love of the outdoors and creation of a new national park system. Ohioans began developing its own conservation movement by passing laws, creating agencies and buying land to protect forests, fish, and game.
After World War II, state lawmakers consolidated the assortment of state lands to provide consistent management and administration of public lands and facilities. Senate Bill 13 of the 98th General Assembly, effective Oct. 7, 1949, created the Division of Parks within the new Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
In 2013, the ODNR Division of Parks and Recreation merged with the ODNR Division of Watercraft. There were a number of benefits from the merger including improving customer service, saving on facility costs and staff flexibility for both the parks and boating programs.
Today, most state park offices offer customers the ability to make reservations, register their boat, schedule boat inspections and find nature and boating education programs. The division's Natural Resources Officers provide law enforcement support to all parks facilities as well as across the waters of Ohio. This flexibility improves customer engagement and offers a flexible solution to safety issues.