Formal preserve name honors local conservationist Donald G. Beam
In May, the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves (DNAP) added another significant natural area to Ohio’s nature preserve system—the Donald G. Beam, Brinkhaven Oak Barrens State Nature Preserve. Located near the village of Brinkhaven in Holmes County, the 114-acre preserve was named in honor of Don Beam, a passionate local conservationist and long-time friend of DNAP. Don was instrumental in the protection of the 114-acre site and managed the site for another decade. Through this dedication, his legacy of love and concern for the natural world and this particular site, lives on.
Both the history of the preserve and the term, “barrens,” has a unique history. Prior to the early 1800s, numerous barrens could be found in the lower Mohican River valley. Early land surveyors originally called these treeless areas, barrens. Because the landscape had few or no trees, the land was considered unproductive. The truth is that barrens are home to hundreds of plant and animal species.
Historically, these barrens were maintained by Native Americans who intentionally started wildfires to keep the landscape open, which improved hunting and foraging. Grazing elk and bison, which once inhabited Ohio, also helped keep these barrens open and free of trees.
Brinkhaven Oak Barrens is positioned on a tributary of the Mohican State Scenic River. The preserve protects the best remaining example of oak barrens in the region and one of the best in the state. Black and white oaks are scattered throughout, while the understory contains prairie grasses, such as big bluestem, little bluestem and Indian grass, and scattered wildflowers including butterfly milkweed, pasture thistle, tall coreopsis, hairy sunflower, flowering spurge, and ovate-leaved violet.
Since 1999, DNAP botanists have documented 14 plants at the preserve, which are listed as rare in Ohio, including the state threatened thyme-leaved pinweed (Lechea minor) and potentially threatened hairy (L. mucronata), round-fruited (L. intermedia), and narrow-leaved (L. tenuifolia) pinweeds.
Brinkhaven Oak Barrens is owned and managed by the Killbuck Watershed Land Trust, a local non-profit conservation organization. Access to the site is only by permit, which is issued by the land trust.
In addition to dedicating Brinkhaven Oak Barrens, the division also dedicated Johnson Ridge in Adams County and Swamp Cottonwood in Medina County. These two natural areas have been state-owned for decades, but are now officially dedicated as state nature preserves, which are protected by Ohio’s Natural Areas Act. Johnson Ridge and Swamp Cottonwood are both open to the public without a permit.