#RichlandGives Spotlight: North Central Ohio Land Conservancy
NCOLC: Dedicated to the Healing of Land and People
The North Central Ohio Land Conservancy Inc. is committed to protecting the natural heritage of the North Central Ohio area. We protect land that is botanically significant using conservation easements and then dedicates the land as a nature preserve. Our preserves feature forests, prairies, waterfalls, rare species and other natural wonders. Much of the land we manage has well-maintained hiking trails that are open to the public.
RichlandGives helps us raise unrestricted income that enables us to build trails, including the Clear Fork Valley Scenic Trail, and address many other land management issues. Funds raised from this year’s “Healing Land and People” campaign will be used to combat two epidemics – one in our forests, the other in our communities.
“It is well known that Ohio has a heroin epidemic, but our forests have their own epidemic: a serious influx of invasive plants,” said NCOLC Trustee Eric Miller. “We strive to address both problems at the same time because we realize that many of our donors give out of their compassion for people as much as for love of the land.”
The “Healing Land and People” initiative stems from our experience working on the land with recovering addicts. “In recent months 3 prospective employee-addicts were interviewed, hired, and quit the first day. Success does not come easily, but the occasional victories make our endeavors worth it,” Miller said. “My experiences with a family of reformed criminals has reminded me that people can and do change.”
For the last 7 months, NCOLC has employed a recovering heroin addict who spent 10 of his last 22 years in prison. He supported his habit by stealing, and his convictions for theft and receiving stolen property have largely blocked him from the job market. One of his sons supported himself as a professional thief - as a homeless 9th grader. His daughter tried heroin “just once”, then could not quit until she dried out in jail. All three of them turned out to be excellent, diligent workers. A straight-arrow son, age 20, who always refused to follow the conduct of the others, asked if he could join them to work in the woods, and this stabilized the “crew.” As you can imagine, living with a heroin addict involves repeated disappointments and betrayals. It takes time, but we’ve observed that 2nd, 3rd, and even 10th chances can provide a meaningful alternative to jail time. They are happy that their family is living clean.
“While working side by side I have listened to them repair their relationships with each other,” Miller explained. “All of them work hard and move carefully through our nature preserves, minimizing their impact on good plants, and pulling the bad ones. They’ve grown to love working outdoors and have expressed satisfaction in measuring where we start and end each day because the progress is so tangible.”
Day by day and week by week, as the family works together to remove invasives, they simultaneously heal the land and their family unit. And with these improvements to the land, more people are inspired to hike the preserves and experience the healing qualities of nature for themselves.