Nestled between Delaware and Powell is Deer Haven Park, a gem that is easy to overlook in Delaware County’s Preservation Parks system.
That’s because when you pull into the entrance, you see Havener Park listed above Deer Haven. There’s a main parking lot to the left with a maintained open space before some woods and connected to pet-friendly walking trails. When it’s nice, the open space is used as soccer fields. That’s Havener Park, and it is maintained by Liberty Township.
However, if you stay to the right and drive past that lot, you’ll enter adjacent Deer Haven Park, which is another animal entirely. These side-by-side parks have a common heritage.
“What happened was the Havener family, when they donated the property (in 2006), they donated half to Liberty Township and half to Preservation Parks at the same time,” said Sue Hagan, spokeswoman for Preservation Parks. “The parks were sort of developed at the same time, we overlapped our time frames quite a bit. We share an entrance drive, we also share trails.”
On two frozen/frigid mornings in January, a writer walked a couple of those trails. The solitary sub-zero snow-covered sojourns were briefer than intended due to the extremity-numbing temperatures. However, the hikes were long enough to gather some general impressions of the 97-acre Deer Haven Park.
First, no deer were sighted, but tracks of deer hooves were spotted. A squirrel was heard munching away and then seen on a fallen log before it scampered away, camera-shy.
“The deer come in and out,” Hagan said. “We see them. We also hear coyotes howling on summer nights in that park. All of our parks, we’re going to get the typical woodland habitat if it’s a woodland area with the deer and the squirrels. There’s skunks, raccoons and various birds.”
While on the 0.6-mile Tree Swallow Trail, a faint, telegraphic tapping on trees could be heard at times.
“We have woodpeckers in all of our woodland areas,” she said. “A lot of them are the smaller ones, the downy and hairy woodpeckers. But we also have the bigger pileated crow-sized (Woody the Woodpecker) crow-sized birds, and they’ll make noise out in the woods with their hammering.”
A flock of cardinals flew from treetop to treetop, some taking in sustenance at bird feeders.
Hagan said, “We have a lot of winter resident birds that come in, like the junco that come in from Canada. They will hang out in our comparatively warmer climate during the winter and those birds will go back up north. We’re not at bird migration time right now, between winter and spring and fall and winter, we get a bigger variety of birds that come in because going from one place to the other.”
Next to those bird feeders was a building that houses a nature library and a classroom, as well as a naturalists’ office. It has space that can be rented for business meetings.
“What makes Deer Haven a little special is that we have the visitor’s center there. The visitor’s center is open noon to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and we extend those hours in the summer. Because we have that wonderful, warm indoor space, we hold quite a few of our programs there. We have programs in other parks as well, but we do hold a lot of them at Deer Haven.”
Deer Haven’s visitor’s center was funded by John Bader, and the park features a bird sanctuary named after his wife, Amy Clark-Bader. It includes a water feature and a new wildlife blind ideal for bird watching during the peak migratory seasons.
“One thing that is a little different about Deer Haven is that we don’t allow pets on the trails,” Hagan said. “We do at most parks, but with this one being a bird sanctuary, we decided not to allow pets on the Deer Haven trails.”
However, if you have a dog, you can park at Deer Haven, go to the connection with Havener Park, and go for a walk there.
“When you go back further east in (Havener) park in the wooded area, they have a series of trails in there that connect with our trails. Between the two parks, you’ve got about three miles of walking.”
There’s 1.5 miles of trails in Deer Haven, and the most scenic is Bent Tree Ridge Trail. This 0.4-mile trail has a bridge that crosses a creek and goes up a ridge, with a steep set of stairs on both sides of the ravine further along the trail. When the water is high, you can’t cross over to the other set of stairs.
“It’s a natural creek crossing,” she said. “We designed that on purpose. We want some natural areas in the park, and not have everything be a bridge or a rail. When the water is relatively low, it’s pretty easy to cross that and people do it all the time.
“The beautiful ridge trail, especially the one that has the drop off on both sides, it really gives you some nice vistas. Delaware is a pretty flat county in general, but the ravines where the creek has cut and eroded the underlying rock create the ravines, so we have some really pretty topography where you have the creeks.”
Another wetland area is being reclaimed next to the entrance of Deer Haven, Hagan said.
“It’s already been excavated and by next year people will start to see the aquatic plants start to fill in.”
Preservation Parks has an annual theme for its all-ages programming, and this year’s theme will be “World of Water.” Hagan said there will be a kickoff event on Memorial Day weekend at Deer Haven, with a 2,200-gallon aquarium tank filled with fish native to Ohio. There will also be an exhibit on view at Deer Haven through Labor Day.
“Our programs are really robust. We have a lot of stuff on the schedule for not being a huge park district. Delaware County is busy, with a lot of people, and we provide those services for the county. They’re paying the taxes, and our (nine) parks are their parks.”
Deer Haven Park is at 4183 Liberty Road, Delaware. For more information, visit preservationparks.com