Lancaster Bike Path
We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. ~Aldo Leopold
An Ohio trail that we walk often is the Fairfield Heritage Trail, also known as the Lancaster Bike Path. It winds through Lancaster and is approximately 9.5 miles in length. There are certain parts of the path we walk more than others. Some areas are scenic and are great for birding. Other areas of the path wind down some of the streets and through neighborhoods.
The path is paved and for the most part completely flat. There are some slight elevation changes, but not much. The worst elevation change, in the wetland area, is under the railroad bridge. There is a steep decline and incline. As I said before, this is a great path. But when it was designed, they should have made the underpasses more of a gradual transition. For those in wheelchairs or on bicycles, they can be tricky.
Another issue with this part of the trail is there isn't paved access to the trail. The path is very smooth and would be great for wheelchair use (except the steep underpasses). The only problem is, it can be tricky getting on the path for some. The only way to get on it is to park at the mall and cross a curb and grassy strip. Park at a gravel parking area on Ety Road. Or park at Hocking Park and enter off of Meda Ave.
From the Ety Road parking area to Meda Ave. the trail measures approx. 1.4 miles.
Our favorite area is right beside the River Valley Mall. Many people see the path, but don’t realize the beautiful area that is just hidden out of sight. When we are in town, we often jump on the path just for the birding. On a good day, we could spend hours in just this one small area.
Tucked away directly behind the AHA Children’s Museum is a beautiful wetland area that is full of wildlife. The paved path makes it easy to get to. However, if there has been a lot of rain, the path does get covered in water in one small area.
Animals, Birding & Insects
The wetlands provide a great area for wildlife to thrive. There are birds there all year round. During spring migration and during the summer months there is non-stop action.
Some of the bird species that we have spotted are:
· Blue Jay
· ….and probably many more that I cannot recall
Being right in town with traffic and all the people you wouldn’t think that there would be much wildlife other than birds. But in the small area, there are many animals to be seen. I’ve encountered white-tailed deer, coyote, groundhogs, squirrels, snakes and turtles.
Common Musk Turtle, Northern Watersnake, Midland Painted Turtles
There are a lot of insects to be found. Last year we spotted several monarch butterflies along with several other species.
As much as we love having this Central Ohio trail nearby, there are a few downsides. The biggest is the trash that is thrown down the banks next to the two large ponds. And it’s not just trash. There is always clothing too. Are people shoplifting and going outside to change their clothes? It doesn’t make any sense. And since it is right next to a shopping area, you can bet you will see a shopping cart tossed over the side as well.
Part of the path sits directly next to the mall parking lot. So one side has ponds, waterfowl and song birds. The other has parked vehicles and traffic.
The owners of the mall do not keep the area kept up very well. Trash can be found and the pavement is full of potholes. As of February 2020, the traffic light only flashes. This is a huge safety concern. If you visit this area, be extra careful at this intersection. There are wrecks all the time.
There are many positive aspects to this part of the Fairfield Heritage Trail. The birding is amazing, and the wildlife is always a sight to see. The path is smooth and wide. Next to the path is plenty of shopping, a movie theater and restaurants. All of these amenities allow you to make a full day of your visit.
There aren’t any restrooms or seating available on the trail. But the mall and several other stores are right there in very close walking distance.
What You Can Expect at the Fairfield Heritage Trail Wetland Area
Please note that trail rules and regulations can change at any time. The following information was in effect for Fairfield Heritage Trail as of February 2020.
Bathrooms are not located along the trail. However, there are many public bathrooms located in the mall and adjacent stores.
Bicycles are permitted on the trail.
A great place for birding in Ohio.
There is a railroad bridge located between the Ety Road entrance and the AHA Children's Museum. There is a foot bridge located near Hocking Park.
Concealed carry is permitted.
Dogs are permitted on the trail if they are on a leash.
Very slight elevation changes except for the underpass at the railroad bridge.
Plenty of parking at the mall. There is also a small gravel parking area on Ety Road. Parking is also available at Hocking Park.
There are picnic tables located at Hocking Park.
There is a small playground at Hocking Park.
There isn't any seating along the trail. Seating can be found at Hocking Park and at around the mall.
This trail has some trees, but there isn't much shade.
A shelter house is located at Hocking Park.
Trails is easy to see since it is paved.
There are no trashcans located along the trail. This could be the reason for all of the trash.
There are 2 large ponds, a wetland area and the Hocking river.
ADA parking is available at the mall.
There isn't any boating allowed in the ponds or wetland areas.
Fishing is permitted along the Hocking River.
Special Features - Shopping, movies and restaurants are right there.