Pearson Metropark

761 Lallendorf Rd.
Oregon , OH 43616

419-407-9700   |
Daily 7 a.m. until dark

Depression Era Programs Aid Conservation of Natural History

The region’s natural history has been preserved at Pearson Metropark and its scenic landscape is open to enjoy through the parks trails, pond, and interpretive centers.

Northwest Ohio was once covered by a dense forest and thick swamp land that stretched from Sandusky to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and as far south as Findlay. The swamp was created thousands of years ago after the massive glaciers that once covered most of the Ohio region began melting and retreating north. In certain areas the swamp water was so deep, a person could stand and be covered up to their chest. As the leaves on the massive trees changed, they would fall into the surrounding water, causing it to turn a deep black color; thus, it came to be known as the Great Black Swamp. Early settlement of the area was impossible because of the foreboding difficulty of draining and clearing the swamp for farming, which was the impetus for western migration in the age of the frontier. Even native inhabitants found higher ground to settle, though they did venture into the swamp to hunt its robust wildlife population, particularly the species of bird that flocked there. During the nineteenth century, settlement of the region exploded following the close of the War of 1812 and the removal of Native Americans from their land. By the 1850s the swamp was being rapidly cleared for farming and development thanks to new techniques used to create drainage systems, such as tile ditches and dikes. At the turn of the century, little remained of the once massive forest, and the areas industries thrived as populations grew. In the decades following, it became likely that the last remaining swamp land in Lucas county – known as the “Bank Lands” – would be purchased, divided, and developed. Around the same time the Great Depression struck, and Toledo’s industries and citizens suffered with an unemployment rate of 80%. Among concerns over employment, the area’s citizens felt the city needed to improve public spaces, such as parks, and they were influenced by a growing national movement that urged citizens and officials to protect scenic spaces and natural resources. Local reporter George Pearson was a champion for the land, advocating for its preservation in the Toledo Blade. Pearson wrote several editorials and led a public campaign stressing the importance of saving the land by turning it into a park, which was ultimately successful. In 1934 Pearson Park, later Pearson Metropark, was established by the Metropolitan Park Board. Like other Toledo Metroparks, the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration helped convert the space to a park, creating jobs for the community during the economic depression. The 624-acre park comprised of the remnants of the Great Black Swamp continues to be enjoyed by the public today.

Read More

Notes for Travelers

Visitors have the chance to take in the oldest natural features in northwest Ohio at Pearson Metropark. Pearson offers trails for walking and biking, and a multipurpose trail with a raised platform for people to view the native wildlife, particularly the species of birds that attract birders from all over the world to this region every May for the Biggest Week in American Birding. Those interested in experiencing this up close can also visit the Pack-Hammersmith Center, a facility with one of the park’s six Windows on Wildlife that offer an intimate view of Pearson’s robust wildlife population. Among the park’s natural beauty sits the Johlin Cabin. Family-oriented programing at the cabin encourages visitors to imagine what it would have been like to live near the Great Black Swamp in the mid-1800s.

Additional Resources

The Late, Great Lakes: An Environmental History, William Ashworth.

George Pearson, a Modest Hero, Mary Nassar Breymaier.