June 2012: Bath Nature Preserve

Bath, Ohio

Raymond Firestone was the last of Firestone Tire & Rubber Company founder Harvey Firestone’s five sons to serve in active management of the family business. Firestone began in the company after graduation from Princeton in 1933 by pumping gas and became president from 1957 to 1964. Although tires made the family fortune (and landed Ray Firestone on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1961) his abiding passion remained the horses that automobiles displaced in American life. He built a 750-acre farm here for his family and stable of 20 or so retired racehorses that he rode and jumped regularly. After his death in 1994, Bath Township purchased part of the estate after a bond issue and the Bath Nature Preserve was opened to the public in 2001. 

Bringing your dog to the former Firestone estate is her chance to be a farm dog for the day. After opening with a romp through wind-swept grassy hills you are enveloped by the trail system that covers more than five miles. From here your options are many but your best play is to chart a course around the perimeter of the 404-acre park. Along the way you will pass a stone-free field stream where your dog can scramble down the banks for a refreshing splash, a low-lying wet pasture known as the Garden Bowl, cool pine groves and climax forests. The trail surface varies from grass to farm road to asphalt. Don’t miss the South Woods Trail where the soft, mossy dirt is about as paw-friendly a path as your dog is ever likely to trot. The hills of the former horse and cattle farm are big enough for a good sled ride but there are also long, flat stretches.

Bogs are freshwater wetlands found in northern glaciated regions that receive more rainfall than they lose through evaporation. The substrate is largely composed of organic peat, usually rainwater fed and low in nutrients. The bog in Bath Nature Preserve is a tamarack bog, populated by deciduous conifers also known as larches that shed their needles each winter. There are very few tamarack bogs remaining in Ohio and this one too may soon disappear. A tree census in the early 2000s found only six surviving tamaracks and a preponderance of invasive red maples that signal the acceleration of the bog into a woodland.

From I-77 take I-71 west and exit immediately onto Brecksville Road going south. Make a right on Ira Road to the park entrance on the left at 4160.