Dillon’s newest naturalist has a passion for the state park

NASHPORT — Naturalist Michael Durst arrived at Dillon State Park in February, but already had a passion for the park.

“Dillon is an amazing park,” he said. The 2,285-acre park and accompanying lake has “a breathtaking amount of biodiversity” and an abundance of habitats that offer plenty to see and do for any nature lover.

Durst grew up in the Akron area in an outdoor family. He fished with his grandfather on Lake Erie and hiked with his parents. In addition, he worked on his father’s farm.

College took Durst to Columbus, where he studied science and zoology before moving on to evolutionary biology and plant pathology.

Always a lover of the great outdoors, Durst enjoys hiking, fishing, and what he calls “enjoying wildlife in general.” He lives on a small farm near Lancaster, and he says he does much of what he does at work at home. “I like to walk around and see what I have on the property, compare and contrast between what I see at the park and what I see at home.”

Durst is working on creating a nature center in a building near the Dillion Camp Store. The building once housed a nature center decades ago, Durst said, but had long been out of use. The park has planned a number of events throughout the year, including clean-ups, nature presentations, and the annual Christmas in July and Halloween camp. On Friday, Durst will lead a night hike and a longer spring hike on Sunday. More information is available on the park’s Facebook page.

New Dillon State Park Naturalist Michael Durst outside the park naturalist cabin.

The park offers great opportunities for hunting, fishing and boating, Durst said, as well as an archery range. The mountain bike trails are some of the best he’s seen at a state park, he said, and there are extensive hiking and hiking trails as well. The adjacent wildlife area offers even more opportunities for outdoor activities.

“Every day I’m here I feel more connected to the place,” he said, “and you really realize what a wonderful place it is.”

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Upcoming activities

friday april 8

8:00 p.m. The Park After Dark: 1.5 kilometer guided night hike. Meet at the naturalist’s cabin. Wear sturdy shoes and dress for potentially cooler temperatures and bring water/snacks.

sunday april 10

9:00 AM Hike Start: Meet at the “B” trailhead adjacent to the beach parking lot for a guided hike of approximately 2.5 miles exploring sections of three different trails and the different habitats found on each. Wear sturdy shoes and bring water/snacks.

saturday april 16

10 a.m. Easter Bug Hunt: Look for all sorts of insects and other similar creatures lurking in the environment around us. We will collect probable insect “houses” and take a look at what lives there. Meet at the naturalist’s cabin.

11:00 am Easter egg decorating: Show off your creative side with the wooden Easter egg decorating outside the Camp Store. All equipment will be provided and eggs can be taken home.

1pm Easter egg hunt: Meet at the archery range for a festive Easter egg hunt for the kids.

Saturday April 23

10:00 a.m. DIY in the Dirt: Join us on the stage next to the camp store for an informative Earth Day weekend presentation and workshop on sustainable home gardening, including making seed starter pots , compost, and more. Information on other environmentally friendly resources will also be available.

10:30 am Native Wildflower Workshop: A display of native Ohio wildflowers and a seed sowing workshop on the stage outside the camp store.

sunday april 24

9:00 a.m. Hike Start: Meet at the “X” trailhead for the Licking Bend trailhead at the marina parking lot for a guided hike of approximately three miles exploring our Licking Bend and Eagle Ridge Loop trails . Wear sturdy shoes and bring water/snacks.

2 p.m. There are more than people in the park: A special teen-led program focusing on tracks and other signs of local wildlife with a scavenger hunt and more. Meet at the stage outside the Camp Store.

Saturday April 30

11:00 am Dendrology at Dillon: Arbor Day celebration which will begin with a hike of approximately one mile focusing on some of the trees in the park. Meet at the naturalist’s cabin. Wear sturdy shoes and bring water/snacks.

1:00 p.m. Tree Planting for Arbor Day: Help commemorate with us this year’s Arbor Day as we welcome new “branches” to the park with a tree planting ceremony on the camp site. Meet outside the Camp Store.

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