Penitentiary Glen; A Visit With Ohio’s Wildlife

We often forget how lucky we are to live in NEOhio. We are on the shores of the Great Lake Erie, in an area filled with a wide variety of wildlife that’s not typically aggressive nor particularly dangerous and surrounded by vast networks of well-maintained parks to enjoy. With few moderately challenging exceptions, most of the “hiking” in NEOhio is over flat or lightly rolling hills, on trails that are, at least in part, accessible to nearly everyone. Of the many parks, Lake Metroparks’ Penitentiary Glenn in Kirtland, Ohio is a small gem of a park that’s a perfect sampler of what the area has to offer. A personal favorite, “PenGlen” has plenty of easy walking mixed with slightly more strenuous trails heading in and out of the gorge dividing the park. The Nature Center is a lovely place to sit in air-conditioned comfort (or warmth in cooler seasons) to watch songbirds feeding through the viewing window, or wander about for a hands-on education about the park and its inhabitants. If you happened by on the right day, a fun way for families to enjoy the park is a ride to the edge of the gorge on the Glen Meadow & Orchard Railroad, a large scale “garden RR” run by the Lake Shore Live Steamers. The RR is only active on certain days, and may be require ticket purchase, so be sure to check the website before visiting. There’s a fishing lake with a boardwalk to cross the water, picnic areas, and a play area for the smaller explorers. But the best part of the park, in my opinion anyway, is the Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center.

The Wildlife Center is dedicated to the rehab of injured wildlife and helping return creatures to their natural habitat. Most care happens “behind the scenes” to minimize human interaction and imprinting on the animals, and to aid in their rapid recovery and release. A recent example was several baby bobcats that had been rescued by unsuspecting folks believing they were simply lost kittens- though loud and aggressive lost kittens! The bobcats have been successfully rehabbed, mostly in isolation, and released successfully.  In certain situations, however, the birds and animals are too badly injured to return to the wild, and the Wildlife Center becomes their new home. For many years, a Great Blue Heron blinded in a collision with a car was my first stop in the outdoor habitats. The heron passed a few years ago, after a long life under protection of the center- sad, but he was loved and well cared for during his stay. Walking among the habitats, there is joy in seeing the different creatures, and knowing their injuries would have likely been fatal in the wild. Now they are cared for, and visitors get to see birds and animals they might never see otherwise. Always worth a walk through the small but fascinating Wildlife Center, never knowing what creature will surprise you next. If you enjoy your time among the birds and animal, please consider dropping buck or two in the donation box for care and feeding of the habitat guests.

Surprised by the number of people who have heard of “PenGlen” but have never been there, I’m more surprised how few know of the wildlife center. Lake Metroparks’ Penitentiary Glen is a free day of outdoor enjoyment for everyone in the family, and a perfect four-season park for a quick glimpse of the beauty and wildlife of NEOhio. Enjoy!

Keep Riding Local, Dreaming Global, and I’ll see you on the road!



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