Wintergarden

Location

615 S Wintergarden Road
Bowling Green, OH 43402

Today, Wintergarden/St. John's Nature Preserve provides miles of hiking/walking trails with many loop options that meander through acres and acres of forests and prairie meadows. Full time naturalists on staff host a variety of programs year round. These programs are designed to educate the public about the plants and animals that live in our area. Cultural and historical programs are also offered to help visitors understand the human impact on our resources while often encouraging a hands-on approach to learning. The staff Naturalists also act as restoration managers on the site by eliminating non-native plants and encouraging the growth of plant species that were historically part of our local ecosystem.

Join the Wintergarden Group on Facebook for more information.


Rotary Nature Center

Inside the Rotary Nature Center, a window looks out at wildlife feeding stations and a flowing stream that attract birds, squirrels, and the occasional deer. From couches inside, visitors can relax and observe the native wildlife in a comfortable setting. The natural resources staff is housed at the Nature Center and they are available to answer questions. An extensive natural resources library is also available and contains books for children along with many of the most up to date field guides on the market.

The Rotary Nature Center and the window on wildlife are often open for drop in visitors Monday through Friday from 8 am until 5 pm Occasionally, the center is open on weekends when staff is on site.

View Rotary Nature Center reservation details.

History

Bowling Green was once part of the Great Black Swamp that covered most of Northwestern Ohio. The area was teeming with wildlife and had huge forests with stands of Oak, Maple, Ash, and Hickory trees. Intermingled with the forests were prairies and savannas where grasses and flowering plants covered forest floors and opened into sunlit areas hundreds of acres in size. The deforestation and drainage in the area provided excellent farmland for the early settlers and it continues to provide for farmers today.

When the City of Bowling Green acquired Wintergarden Woods just after the Second World War, it provided a space for residents to engage in passive recreational opportunities. Wintergarden Woods was just the beginning. Over the years a lodge was built through community support. Originally designed to cater to overnight groups and youth hostellers, the lodge is now the Rotary Nature Center which serves to educate residents on all facets of natural resources within our community. Additional properties were purchased, including St. John's Woods, Bordner Meadow, Twyman Woods, and most recently, 19.7 acres that were formerly owned by the Sader family (now called Tucker Woods).

Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve has been brought together over time through six separate land acquisitions. The first portion, Wintergarden Woods (21 acres), was acquired by the City of Bowling Green in 1946 as a site to install water wells.  By the 1950’s the water treatment plant for the City had been built along the Maumee River and Wintergarden started to be used for day camps and scouting activities. In 1969, Wintergarden Lodge was built to provide overnight accommodations, rental opportunities, and programming space.

St. John’s Meadow and Woods (37.5 acres) were added to Wintergarden Park, as it was then known, through State of Ohio Land and Water Conservation grant funding in 1986. The name was changed to Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve to acknowledge the former owners of this parcel of land.

In 1999, the Bordner Meadow portion of the preserve (21.8 acres) was purchased with funds raised by Bowling Green residents. Along with this land acquisition came the transformation of Wintergarden Lodge to a nature center and the addition of staff for educational programming and park maintenance. As a result of these changes, the lodge was renamed The Rotary Nature Center. Then, in 2003, a 3.6-acre addition, Twyman Woods, was partially gifted to the still-growing preserve. 

Without hesitation when the opportunity presented itself, the BG Parks and Recreation Foundation pursued the next 19.7 acres in 2005. This section of the preserve is named Tucker Woods, after long-time Parks and Recreation Foundation member Margaret Tucker. This parcel was also purchased through the generosity of local residents.

The final addition to the preserve, the West Wintergarden Prairie (20.4 acres), was secured in 2020 with the assistance of the Black Swamp Conservancy. Both grant funding and donations were utilized to purchase this last, contiguous parcel of former farm field planted by the previous owner planted in tallgrass prairie through the Conservation Reserve Program. 

Wintergarden Nature Preserve Map

For a detailed map of our trails, please click the following link to our Wintergarden Brochure.