Nature Conservancy speaker highlights dinner

Martin McCalister from the Nature Conservancy speaks to the crowd at the Adams County Travel and Visitors Bureau’s annual dinner Wednesday.

Adams County Commissioner Paul Worley, left, presents an award to Thomas McDonough.

Herb and Kim Erwin are recognized for their contributions to the Adams County Travel and Visitors Bureau.

Tom Cross, the executive director of the Adams County Travel and Visitors Bureau, speaks to those in attendance during the bureau’s annual dinner Wednesday.

The Adams County Travel and Visitors Bureau hosted its annual dinner and awards ceremony Wednesday evening.

Guests in attendance learned about what the bureau has done in the past year as well as upcoming projects.

Tom Cross, executive director of the bureau, discussed the success of past events such as the Adams County Marathon which expects to have as many as 7,000 participants next year, and a car show which saw upwards of 90 vehicles this past year.

Internet traffic on the bureau’s website is up a great deal as well, according to Cross. It had nearly 61,000 hits the past year, up 16 percent from the year before, while the mobile website had more than 11,000 hits, up 33 percent from the prior year.

A website dedicated specifically for visitors of Great Serpent Mound is in the works as well. Cross said the website should be up and running within a year and will be available in English, Spanish and German.

Highway signs directing tourists on highways throughout the county toward places of interest such as the Wheat Ridge Amish Shops also went up this past year.

Additionally, a television commercial has been filmed and will be shown on area network stations.

The featured guest speaker was Martin McCalister from the Nature Conservancy who spoke about wildlife, trails and the bounty of protected forest areas in Ohio.

McCalister, who said he’s spent most of the past 32 years “managing, protecting or promoting natural resources in the Adams County area” spoke afterwards about the varieties of wildlife in the area and what plans the Nature Conservancy has for the future.

“Some of the richest freshwater systems are right here in the area,” McCalister said. “If you take a 10-minute walk from here down to the creek, you can see more varieties of freshwater mussels than in all of Europe combined.”

McCalister said the Nature Conservancy plans to also install and move a few trails on the Buckeye Trail that are closer to the side of roads than he would like.

The Buckeye Trail is a 1,400-mile trail that encircles the state that also connects with larger trails such as the the North Country Trail that stretches 4,600 miles from North Dakota to Eastern New York, and the American Discovery Trail which is 6,800 miles long stretching from coast to coast.

“Even though the Buckeye Trail tries to follow footpaths, occasionally, it has to come out near a road,” McCalister said. “As money permits, we try to move the trails back into the forests.”

The Nature Conservancy has applied for a grant that would move about 13 miles of trail in Adams County off roadways and back into forests.

Awards were also given out toward the end of the evening.

Thomas McDonough, of Peebles, was honored for his more than a decade of work running the bureau’s first website which he started in 2003.

Herb and Kim Erwin were also presented with an award honoring their contributions to the bureau.