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The moss-covered cliffs and outcroppings of Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park in Nelson Township have been without guidance for quite some time.
So long, in fact, that John Trevelline, the new park manager for the 167-acre area, couldn't recall who the last manager was.
Trevelline has only been with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a short time but he has been charged with overseeing Nelson Ledges, along with West Branch and Lake Milton state parks.
Coming from an educational background in education and administration, he said his focus with ODNR is on educating the public about the parks, natural resources and conservation efforts.
"My job is to make it a safe, enjoyable place for people to get out and enjoy. I want to enhance the place," he said. "I'm overseeing the park, which means I coordinate and work on the trail maintenance, removing graffiti -- which is a big problem (at Nelson) -- removing the trash and keeping the safe for visitors."
Trevelline said he has four major areas of focus during his time with Nelson Ledges.
First, he wants to create and maintain a Facebook page for the park, a place in the social media realm where he can share event information and photos of the park and visitors.
Second, he wants to form a "Friends of the Park" group similar to other state and national parks.
"Essentially they will act as ambassadors of the park," Trevelline said. "They'll be people in the community who tell people about the park, what's there and why they should go. Hopefully they'll also be involved with conservation of the area, too."
Third, he said he is hoping to cut down on the drug and alcohol use at the park through cooperation with the Portage County Sheriff Office and ODNR park rangers.
"This isn't the place to have a couple of beers or get high. It's way too dangerous," he said, referring to high ledges, deep caves and tight crevasses. "I don't have the law enforcement authority to directly deal with them, but we have a ranger up her a few times each week, plus the sheriff patrols out here."
The fourth goal is to replace signage at the "entrance" of the park, or at least the spot near the parking lot. Trevelline would like to see clearer rules and maps of the park where people can better access them.
Vandalism and graffiti are a big problem at the park, as is litter, he said. The park is collaborating with area Boy Scout troops for help with litter cleanup and some trail maintenance.
"I just don't understand how people can just throw things out on the trails like they have been," he said.
He has also reached out to Nelson Township trustees for advice and concerns about the area. Much of their issues stem from the neighboring Nelson Ledges Quarry Park campground, which is privately owned and is not under the jurisdiction of ODNR.
There are also several areas of the park in desperate need of maintenance work: The wood walkway at Dwarf's Pass has missing planks that could be a danger to visitors, especially when the path is wet. There are also missing stairs in the wooden stairways in other places.
"People have been getting hurt up there more often than I would like. Twisted ankles, broken legs from climbing in places they shouldn't. When I look at young kids and people hurt up there, I want to prevent that," Trevellin said.
For those who have visited the park in recent months, the walkway leading to Gold Hunter's Cave under Cascade Falls in the northern part of the park has been dismantled. Trevelline said there is no plan to replace it.
"I just want the park to be a place where people feel safe and comfortable coming to," he said.
I hope this includes getting rid of the drug users and the other trash there.