Charles Alley Nature Park
"If I could live forever, and you would be with me, I'd choose a house for all seasons on a mountain greenery." ~ D. Morgan
Charles F. Alley Memorial Park
Charles F. Alley Memorial Park is a 350-acre park in Fairfield County. It has been a part of the Lancaster Parks and Recreation Department since 1978. The park hosts many events that are fun as well as educational.
The Ohio park has 2 lakes, a cabin, a covered bridge, a nature center, a disk golf course, and approximately 7 miles of hiking trails. There are several picnic areas located near the parking lot, George Hutchins Covered Bridge and Lake Loretta.
About the Park
Entering the park there is a sign located on the left side of the trail. The map and information need to be updated. However, it still provides some good information about the park amenities, trails and history.
Information is taken directly off the sign.
This park was made possible by a gift and purchase agreement from Mr. & Mrs. Charles F. Alley and The Land & Water Conservation Act Administration, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and initiated by the City of Lancaster.
Charles F. Alley Memorial Park, located on Old Logan Road in Berne Township of Fairfield County, has approximately 300 acres.
In early geological time, a river flowed north through this valley, which 300,000 years ago, was blocked by the south advance of the Illinoian Glacier. Water collected in front of this ice cap to form a lake that eventually found an outlet to the south to reverse the flow of the river and leave behind the outwash terraced that partially conceal the black hand sandstone that forms the high ridges within this park.
Today we have over 5 miles of marked trails for hiking. 2 lakes have been stocked by the Division of Wildlife for fishing. Shelter houses are provided for picnicking, the interpretive center will offer naturalist programs. This nature preserve is being maintained for your mental and physical relaxation.
Everyone should take pride in keeping its natural state. This park is intended to provide a diversion from the hurried pace to which we are constantly exposed.
Lancaster Parks & Recreation
Charles Alley Memorial Park has quite a few trails. They vary in difficulty from easy to moderately difficult. Keeping track of the trails can be difficult. There are signs located throughout the park. However, they are off just a bit. Enough to make you think and stop for a few minutes. They are close, just not perfect. And some trails are not even shown.
All the trails are natural. The trail next to Lake Loretta is the easiest, widest and the smoothest. Once you get off the main trail the trails get more rugged. We like to give you information on each trail individually, but that is almost impossible at this park. Once you visit, you will understand why.
There are 2 lakes at Charles Alley Memorial Park: Lake Loretta and Twin Lake. The closest and busiest lake is Lake Loretta. It sits near the entrance to the park.
· Lake Loretta
Lake Loretta is a 4.7-acre lake. In 2016, a new aerator was installed that has helped bring life back to the lake. When we visited the park, there were several people fishing.
· Twin Lake
You must do a little hiking to get to Twin Lake. It is a large lake that sits about 1500 ft from Lake Loretta. Since the trails twist and turn it is about a mile walk. The lake is secluded and very peaceful. When we visited there was not anyone at the lake.
Eagle’s Nest Disk Golf Course
As its name suggests, there is a large Bald Eagles nest located near the main entrance to Eagles Nest Disc Golf Course. However, the eagles moved to a different location not long after the disk golf course was built.
Bald eagle nesting areas should not be bothered during breeding season. Disturbing a bald eagle is a criminal offense that is punishable by either a fine or imprisonment. Thankfully, they did not build their new nest far away. The beautiful birds can still be seen flying over the disk course and Alley Park.
The disc golf course looks nice. We do not play the sport, so we are unable to give you an actual review. The parking lot is limestone and has enough room for approximately 20 vehicles. There is a small shelter house with a picnic table and a port-a-john.
· Getting to Eagles Nest Golf Course from Alley Park
The frisbee golf course sits on the far east side of Alley Park. There are trails that lead you to the golf course. Once you get there, the trails are no longer marked. We walked through a section of the course and followed the tree line looking for the continuation of the trail.
We came upon what looked like a trail, so we took it. It led to a set of wooden steps that took us deeper into the golf course. Looking around we believed that we had found the trail. After following it through a grove of pine trees, we ended up at another hole. We saw what we believed to be the entrance to a trail across the field.
After entering this “trail,” we finally came upon a trail sign. Of course, it was slightly off. So, we headed in the wrong direction. However, this part of the trail was beautiful. It was very thin and not highly traveled. There were large rock outcroppings and small caves. On the side of the hill, tucked in next to a large rock outcropping, was a white-tailed deer watching us closely.
· The Eagle’s Nest Golf Course Parking Lot
If you are only visiting to play frisbee golf, the parking lot is easy to find. It is located south of the Charles Alley Memorial Park entrance. You can find the disc golf course HERE.
George Hutchins Covered Bridge
The George Hutchins Covered Bridge was built in 1865. It was originally located off Stricker Road. It crossed Clear Creek. It has a span of 49 feet and features multiple Kingpost construction.
In 2000, George Hutchins Covered Bridge was reconstructed for the Fairfield County Bicentennial Celebration. The bridge is now a footbridge that crosses Lake Loretta and leads to the Goslin Nature Center.
Ohio is known for its covered bridges. At one point in time, Fairfield County had 279 timber truss bridges. This was more than any other county. Sadly, most of these no longer exist.
It is estimated that there are still 125 wooded covered bridges left in the state. Many of them have been relocated to private properties. Others are cared for by local parks departments. Out of the 125, 17 of these are in Fairfield County.
The 17 bridges are:
· Charles Holliday Bridge (Millersport Kiwanis Sweet Corn Festival grounds)
· Estate Bridge (Still open to vehicular traffic)
· George Hutchins Bridge (Alley Park)
· Hannaway Bridge aka Hanaway Bridge (Two Glaciers Park)
· Hartman #2 Bridge (Lockville Canal Park)
· Hizey Bridge (Private Property)
· John Bright #2 Bridge (Ohio University Lancaster)
· Johnston Bridge (Two Glaciers Park)
· Jon Raab Bridge (Private Property)
· Mink Hollow Bridge (Arney Run Park)
· R.F. Baker Bridge (Fairfield Union School)
· Rock Mill Bridge (Rock Mill Park)
· Shreyer Bridge (Private Property)
· Zeller-Smith Bridge (Sycamore Creek Park)
A map to these bridges can be found HERE.
If you are interested in visiting all the covered bridges in Fairfield County, keep an eye on the Visit Fairfield County website. Covered Bridge tours are very popular. There is usually a guided bus tour every year. We have also heard people talk about motorcycle tours and cyclist tours.
One of the first things that you will notice when visiting Charles Alley Memorial Park is a small log cabin. The cabin sits near the entrance to the trailheads just before Lake Loretta. There is not much information about this cabin other than a small sign attached to the building.
If you have any information regarding the Green-Blanpied home, we would love to learn more about it.
The sign reads:
Thank you to those who helped secure, support, finance, relocate, and rebuild the Green-Blanpied home for our community.
Special Thanks to those individuals and organizations who made extraordinary contributions to aid in the effort:
Bill & Betty Pierson
Friends of Lancaster Parks
Columbus and Franklin County Metroparks
Fairfield County Foundation
Wendel Family Fund
Alma S. Busby Fund
Dedicated for our community 2015
Goslin Nature Center
The Goslin Nature Center provides a beautiful setting for weddings and birthday parties. It has large windows and a deck that wraps around the building. The great room has wood-planked walls and a rustic stone fireplace.
If you are interested in renting the Goslin Nature Center, call the Lancaster Parks and Recreation Office.
Nature Education Center
The education center is located on the bottom level of the Goslin Nature Center building. It holds several activities and programs for people of all ages. Some events that the center hosts are the Pumpkin Hike, Frontier Spirit and Maple Syrup Tapping.
As of right now (08/04/20), the nature center’s hours are Sundays 1-4pm and Wednesday 6-8pm.
Wildlife, Wildflowers and Fungi
We visited Charles Alley Nature Park during the end of spring migration. Even though migration was almost complete, we saw countless birds. Most of the warblers were spotted around Lake Loretta.
List of birds spotted at Charles Alley Nature Preserve
· Blue Jay
There were several wildflowers in bloom all over the park.
Fungi were begging to grow.
Charles Alley Memorial Park is a great park for families and hikers alike. Once you get off the main trail, you will not pass many people. The trails are well-kept and for the most part serene.
There are miles of trails and it is almost impossible to walk them all in one visit. There are only 7 miles, but you must do some backtracking if you want to complete a trail and find another one.
The trail signs could use some work. They are so close, yet very confusing. And the trail that leads through the disc golf course needs to be marked. There are no signs to lead you to the other trail entrance.
What You Can Expect at Charles F. Alley Memorial Park
Please note that trail rules and regulations can change at any time. The following information was in effect for Alley Park in Lancaster as of August 2020.
Bathrooms located at parking lot.
Bicycles are prohibited. There is a bike rack to park your bike near the trail entrance.
Great place for birding.
Several small footbridges and the historical George Hutchins Covered Bridge.
Concealed carry is permitted.
Dogs must be on a leash.
Trail surfaces are natural. The trails are steep in places. There are easy/moderate to more difficult trails.
Main parking lot is blacktop. It has approximately 48 parking spaces. The Goslin Nature Center's lot is finely crushed limestone. There is quite a bit of parking available. However, lot is only available to those who rented the center.
Several picnic tables located near the main parking lot and the George Hutchins Covered Bridge.
There are several benches setup throughout the park.
A lot of shade.
2 shelter houses.
Trails are marked but signs are just a little off.
There are several trashcans.
Lake Loretta and Twin Lakes.
2 ADA parking spots located at the main parking area.