Taking care of our newest state nature preserve

Assistant Resource Manager

Metro Parks Resource Management Technician Gordon Mitchell and resource management volunteers working at the W. Pearl King Prairie Savanna State Nature Preserve. Photo Carrie Morrow

Metro Parks’ natural resource management staff and their volunteers visit the W. Pearl King Prairie Savanna several times each year to control invasive plants, collect prairie seeds and manage the numerous understory trees. We have been hard at work at this remnant Darby Plains oak savanna recently. Fall is a great time to remove invasive non-native understory shrubs like honeysuckle and multiflora rose. We also select young burr oaks to be the next generation of giants while also selectively removing some oaks and hickories to support the savanna preservation into the future.

We are also wrapping up our seed collection efforts for the year. Metro Parks has been collecting native Darby plains seeds from the W. Pearl King Prairie Savanna since the 1970s, back during Jack McDowell’s tenure with the parks. It was one of the favored sites where native prairie plants still grew.

The 20-acre site was never converted to farmland, and has thus preserved its character as an unspoiled wilderness. William Pearl King had owned the land for more than 70 years, all the way through to 1960. It was held in trust for more than four decades after that and was then acquired by Metro Parks in January 2006. The land is best characterised as an oak savanna. Amongst its greatest treasures are numerous 350-year old oak trees, as well as endangered species like prairie dropseed grass, prairie violets and Bicknell’s sedge, which grows more than two feet tall.

Recognizing its importance, and to preserve it in all its natural glory, Metro Parks sought classification of the W. Pearl King Prairie Savanna as a state nature preserve. It was accepted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and became Metro Parks’ sixth dedicated state nature preserve on Feb 6, 2020. The other five state nature preserves in Metro Parks are a 54-acre site at Blacklick Woods, the 4,700-acre site at Clear Creek, a 206-acre area at Highbanks, 418 acres at Pickerington Ponds, and a 320-acre area at Sharon Woods.

Metro Parks resource management volunteers working at the W. Pearl King Prairie Savanna State Nature Preserve. Photo Olivia Downing