Mercy Community Nature Preserve on the grounds of Mercy Tiffin Hospital is open to the public beginning today after its dedication ceremony Monday.
The date was selected to coincide with Earth Day and the hospital's 100th anniversary celebration.
"If this day is an indication of God's approval, I'd say He's really, really happy," said Catherine Gase, chairwoman of the park volunteer committee, referring to warm temperatures and sunny skies.
"The Sisters of Mercy opened the first hospital in northwest Ohio in Tiffin in 1913," Gase said. "And here, 100 years later, is another first."
There are no other nature trails on hospital property in the area, she said, and no other partnerships of this type.
The county's newest park, a partnership between Mercy and the Seneca County Park District, features a three-quarter-mile loop trail in a 22-acre wooded area west of the hospital. More trails are under construction. It features public fishing, riparian corridors, wildlife, the sound of flowing water and five geocaches.
At the entrance to the trail is "an amazing totem pole," Gase said. Created by Ken Cahill, a park neighbor, the work of art is hand-carved and painted from tree from the woods. The totem pole features carvings of animals Cahill has seen over the years in the woods.
Another highlight is a foot bridge built over a ravine by Alec Wagner as an Eagle Scout project.
In his remarks, Mercy President and CEO Dale Thornton focused on the hospital's partnership with the park district and the community.
He said he might come up with ideas, but it's "the do-ers who take a concept and make it into reality."
He said Charles Ervin, senior director of facilities and campus planning at Mercy Tiffin, was the driving force to get people to work together.
"I'm happy the nature preserve will be one more small addition to the lifestyle we (in Tiffin) enjoy," he said. "We at the hospital, in doing things like this, hope we're good community partners."
He said the nature preserve will be one the highlights of his career as he retires June 1.
To open the dedication, Sister Janet Hay of the Sisters of St. Francis led a prayer and park board Chairman Roland Zimmerman introduced other board members and staff members. He invited people attending to visit the rest of Seneca County's parks.
Gase introduced hospital personnel and committee members involved in the project - Cahill, Jana Martin, Mitchell Dandurand, Pam Kin, Dexter Tiell, Ervin, Wayne Kromer and Julie Tiell.
Seneca County Park District Program Director Linda Rose said she walked the Mercy trail last weekend.
"The spring wildflowers are coming out and they're just beautiful," she said.
The trail is open dawn to dusk.
"No day is complete without at least an hour of outdoor time," Rose said.