INTERVIEW with Nate Kirk, State Forest Operations Administrator, Division of Forestry
What do you do to support outdoor recreation in Ohio?
I administer state forest operations that include construction, maintenance and use of recreational trails in state forests. The division manages nearly 350 miles of bridle trails, over 50 miles of hiking trail, over 80 miles of backpack-only trails and 4 all-purpose vehicle, or APV, areas.
What are the trails like at state forests?
We provide a unique backcountry experience in Ohio. For example, bridle trails for horse riders traverse somewhat rugged terrain, with spectacular views of the Appalachian foothills and interesting geological formations. We also have two backpack-only trails over rugged terrain that require moderate skill. They are designed for people who want to get away from it all and experience nature in a solitary way.
Can I ride a four-wheeler in state forests?
In general, off-road activity is prohibited in state forests. However, we are the sole provider of four APV-only areas on state land at Maumee, Pike, Richland Furnace and Perry State Forests where you can ride four-wheelers and motorcycles.
How do you maintain all those trails?
We have professional foresters, technicians and equipment operators throughout the state to keep trails maintained and safe for users, while protecting the environment. We also are heavily dependent on volunteer labor provided by groups such as the Ohio Horsemen’s Council, the Ohio Trails Partnership and the Buckeye Trail Association.
Does timber harvesting impact the trail system?
When you visit our state forests, you may see active timber harvesting to improve the overall health of the forest, tree species composition and wildlife habitat. The harvesting activities can improve our trail system by removing dangerous trees near trails and improving scenic views. As part of the harvesting we are sometimes able to restore trails by placing gravel and culverts in problem areas to prevent erosion.
What is most challenging about your job?
All the various users of our forests, trail groups, APV owners, environmental groups, timber and mineral companies have their own desires as to how we should manage our forests. This makes balancing everyone’s interests for multiple use management both interesting and challenging.