SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Size matters at Big Oak Nature Park.
The park’s giant swamp white oak is the new Ohio State Champion, measuring 236 inches in circumference, a height of 96 feet, and a 93-foot crown spread for a total of 355 points, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry.
“Big Trees Ohio took the opportunity to visit it again,” said Marc DeWerth of Big Trees Ohio, who along with Alistair Reynolds of the Division of Forestry, measured the mighty oak. “The former champ [a white oak in Bay Village] has fallen, which opened the door for your amazingly old monster.”
The park, on State Route 45 just north of North Bend Road, is one of the three parks operated by Saybrook Township Park.
“The park board and I are excited about [the biggest oak tree designation],” said Michelle Hallman, fiscal officer. “If going to the park to see the champion tree, it’s a 10- to 15-minute walk into the forest.”
The park’s trails lead to the swamp white oak tree that is estimated to be between 100 to 150 years old, based on a biological survey done several years ago.
The 30-plus acre park was originally a small farm and contains wetlands, small streams and forest.
More than 10 years ago, the Ashtabula Foundation gave the property to Saybrook Township Park.
The property is rich in biological diversity, according to park officials.
Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor), primarily an oak of the Midwestern United States, is found throughout most of Ohio. It is a frequent inhabitant of wet woods, swamps, wetlands, bottomlands, and near bodies of water, although it is very drought tolerant and can be planted in soils that are dry in summer, according to ODNR.
Of all the members of the white oak group, the undersides of its leaves are the most white, and when contrasted with its dark green leaf uppersides in the breeze, the specific epithet "bicolor" is appropriate, according to ODNR.
Big Oak Nature Park is open dawn to dusk, weather permitting. No hunting is allowed.
Park officials warn the trail is uneven so hikers should use caution and wear appropriate footwear. This park is being kept in its natural state to protect the vegetation and animals and park officials ask walkers stay on the trails.