Oberlin Preserve

Oberlin Preserve

Western Reserve Land Conservancy is celebrating the opening of a new signature park in Lorain County – the 63-acre Oberlin Preserve – and we need your help to install enhanced park infrastructure and ensure funding to care for the property in perpetuity.

Located in the City of Oberlin, this unique property is part of the Black River Watershed. The Oberlin Preserve features a variety of native habitat and also has important historical  significance.

Give now to support the ongoing conservation of Oberlin Preserve!


Signature Features of the Oberlin Preserve

The Land Conservancy and local partners have spent years painstakingly restoring about half of Oberlin Preserve to native prairie, a rare habitat type that takes specific management strategies over time.

With few prairie areas in the region, the property provides a unique glimpse at native grasses, shrubs, and pollinators. Since its initial restoration planting, nearly 600 native wildflower plants, more than 50 native trees, and 30 acres of prairie seed have been planted by corporate and community volunteers, as well as students from Oberlin College. Prairie species spotted this summer include Big bluestem, Nodding wild rye, Blazing star, Rose milkweed, Rattlesnake master, Prairie dock, Virginia mountain mint and Cup plant.

Oberlin Preserve also includes additional habitat types, such as fields, woodlands, wet sedge meadow, and forested vernal pools. These habitats provide shelter, food, and nesting areas for birds, amphibians, small and large mammals and other wildlife. The site has been host to scientific research and biology surveys as far back as 1888, according to records at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Oberlin Preserve is more than just a beautiful landscape. The original owners of the property played a critical role in in the anti-slavery movement of the mid 1800’s. Delilah Evans Copeland and John Copeland, Sr. came to Oberlin in 1843 to shield their children from slavery. Once in Oberlin, the Copelands were active in the abolitionist movement and fugitive slave assistance network in the 1850s-1860s. Their son, John Anthony Copeland, Jr., was a member of the Oberlin Anti-Slavery Society. He participated in the 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, where a group of men worked together to free John Price, a runaway slave who had been captured under the Fugitive Slave Act. He was later hanged alongside John Brown for his participation in the raid on Harper’s Ferry, where he uttered the rally cry for the anti-slavery movement: “If I am dying for freedom, I could not die for a better cause. I had rather die than be a slave.”

Despite this tragedy, John Sr. signed on to serve with the 55th Ohio Volunteers in the Civil War in 1863, continuing his quest for an end to slavery. Various descendants of the Copeland family continued to live on the property until it was sold by Delilah and John’s granddaughter in 1925.

While we often think of history as documents or objects, it is also landscapes and places. As a tribute to the City of Oberlin’s key role in the Underground Railroad, the Oberlin Preserve is also home to a unique Freedom Garden. This living monument is made up of plants, trees or shrubs that may have been used for foraging, medicinally, or had other significant importance during the journey of the passengers along the Underground Railroad.


Vision for the Oberlin Preserve

During the COVID-19 crisis, Ohio residents are visiting public parks and preserves the Land Conservancy has created all across the region in order to connect with nature, stretch their legs, restore their minds, and rejuvenate their spirits. These moments spent outdoors have crystallized the essential nature of our mission and the importance of our work. Access to greenspace is imperative for human health, now more than ever before.

The Oberlin Preserve is directly adjacent to the City’s Recreation Complex, which includes outdoor sports facilities and the Lorain County Metro Parks’ Splash Zone Aquatic and Fitness Center. Students from Oberlin schools and Oberlin College are within three miles of the property. Additionally, the Oberlin Preserve is directly adjacent to a former rail bed connector trail that links the North Coast Inland Trail to a trail that runs parallel to the Recreation Complex along Hamilton Street. This important regional biking and walking trail runs 13 miles from Elyria to Kipton.


Realizing Our Vision

While Oberlin Preserve is now open for public use, Western Reserve Land Conservancy is raising funds for ongoing maintenance of the preserve and to install enhanced park infrastructure features.

For more information, please contact: 
Elizabeth Grace at egrace@wrlandconservancy.org or 216.513.4073