UT students who haven’t visited Oak Openings are missing out one of the best attractions Toledo has to offer.
Oak Openings gives Toledoans access to diverse species and breathtaking landscape right in their own backyard. Associate lecturer of environmental science at the University of Toledo, Todd Crail discussed Oak Openings.
How long have you been working with Oak Openings?
“I thought it was a bunch of pine trees but I ran into this 20 years ago and found out that the region was much more than that metropark and so I’ve been involved as a volunteer out there, as a naturalist, and then as a grad student and then as a faculty member here.”
What makes Oak Openings so special and different from other metroparks in this area specifically?
“The region is different from other places around Ohio because there is a large amount of sand that’s sitting on the clay that we see everywhere else in Northwest Ohio. It’s an old beach ridge that was left by
one of Lake Erie’s predecessors...it left this huge barrier of sand...much like what you see in the Outer Banks of North Carolina or on Cape Cod, you see the same type of morphology as those places.”
Could you talk a little bit about the rare and interesting species that reside there?
“So, because of those rare conditions, the barrier itself is globally unique. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. There are smaller features like it, but nothing with the size and extent of it. Also, Toledo is a collision place of major communities, so as the climate was warming, we had boreal forests and northern forests pass through here and then it really warmed up and we had prairie invade from the west and then it got cooler and wetter and it retreated. The southern Appalachian communities began to migrate forward. So, we’ve had three major communities come through
here and because of the sand, it’s allowed certain things to persist here into the present.”
If a UT student wanted to get more involved with Oak Openings, how could they do that?
“The nature conservancy is a good place to start. We have a student who is beginning to facilitate volunteer time from the university out there as well as service learning through the ‘Down to Earth: Environmental Science’ course. We’re doing service learning out there with metroparks, probably with nature conservancy as well and also through Irwin Prairie.”
Are there any additional things you’d like to add that we maybe didn’t cover that you think are important?
“People don’t realize that they have something globally-rare in their backyards. Irwin Prairie as a community, for example, so state nature preserve is part of the historic Irwin Prairie feature, there are five or less of its type left in the world; it’s one of five. If it were an organism, it’d be rarer than a tiger. We hear a lot about protecting other places and we should, but I think the real opportunity that we have with Oak Openings here in the Toledo area is that we’ve got that right in our backyards. We can, even with tight time schedules and busy schedules, get out and do something to help maintain that into the future.”
Oak Openings is located at 10001 West Central Avenue in Berkey, Ohio.