Whether you’re an adventurous hiker or interested in the natural and cultural history of the Clear Creek Metro Park area, a visit to the newly opened Green Mansions area is a must-see, must-do venture.
This remote and scenic area was once the site of the Emily and William Benua homestead, an impressive 4,700-square-foot structure situated on a hillside surrounded by a forest overlooking a 14-acre lake. Metro Parks acquired the property and a portion of the land surrounding the house in the early 90s thanks to a generous donation in Emily Benua’s will. The park system subsequently purchased additional acreage from the family.
Two years ago, Metro Parks tore down the house and left stone structural remnants so visitors can walk around and imagine what it would have been like in this bucolic setting as they watch belted kingfishers soaring above Lake Emily. Providing this opportunity for visitors to experience the beauties and wonders of the Clear Creek Valley is very much in keeping with the intent of the Benua family, said to Metro Parks Executive Director Tim Moloney.
To get to the Green Mansions Area, start at the park office at 185 Clear Creek Road and take the 1.9-mile Benua Loop Trail. The west side of the loop is mostly shaded (until you reach the dam) with level terrain. Hikers will experience an uphill climb on the east of the loop trail – this portion of the trail is well shaded. This trail is a combination of forest and open fields leading to Lake Emily. Views of Clear Creek are offered at the start of the trail and a small stream parallels the west side of the loop trail on the way to Lake Emily. Visitors will enjoy sights of sandstone outcroppings, eastern hemlock trees and seasonal wildflowers along the way.
The Green Mansions Trail is a 0.4-mile connector trail that leads visitors to the homesite. The dense hemlock canopy along this trail blocks out sunlight creating a noticeable cooling effect in the air temperature. A steep ravine on the south side of the trail provides scenic views as well.
Visitors can expect to see the same diversity of plants and trees along the two trails. Hemlock trees as well as a variety of deciduous trees (oaks, tulip poplar, maples, Ohio buckeye and hickory) surround the trails. Visitors can also see mountain laurel, redbuds and dogwoods. In late summer, Joe Pye weed and ironweed bloom in the open fields.