Canoeing the Grand River at Morgan Swamp Preserve
Grand River at Morgan Swamp Preserve Canoeing the Grand River at Morgan Swamp Preserve © Kent Mason

Places We Protect

Grand River Conservation Campus

Ohio

Nestled within the Morgan Swamp Preserve, the Grand River Conservation Campus is a serene setting of facilities and grounds used for recreation, environmental education, and restoration.

NOTE: To ensure a safe and healthy environment for everyone, TNC Ohio events and field trips through April have been canceled, and the opening of the Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center is delayed until late spring. Our preserves and trails remain open, but restrooms will not be available. We encourage everyone to follow current health and safety precautions.


 

Grand River Conservation Campus

The Grand River Conservation Campus has been shaped by the generations of people who have lived and worked here—from early settlers who farmed the land, to a private hunting retreat in the early 1900s, to a religious retreat for Jewish and, later, Christian communities.

Today, as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Morgan Swamp Preserve, the Grand River Conservation Campus remains a place where people can enjoy nature through numerous passive recreation opportunities, all within a beautiful backdrop of unique habitats, rare plants and abundant wildlife. In fact, a hemlock yellow-birch forest community, one of the rarest swamp forest communities in Ohio, still thrives on the Campus grounds.

The Campus offers a number of amenities that are open to the public, including the Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center, nature trails, an Accessible fishing pier at Bliss Pond, a canoe/kayak launch on the State Designated Wild & Scenic Grand River, and a children’s playground. There is also a pavilion for picnicking and a gymnasium that can be rented out for athletic activities and other events. (See the separate tabs on this page for facilities rental information)

Current Conservation Work

At the Grand River Conservation Campus, there is always a flurry of activity focused on ongoing restoration, recreation and education. Past and current projects at the Campus include:

  • In 2017, the Conservancy opens the Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center—the first nature center of its kind in Ashtabula County.
  • In 2016, the Conservancy enters into an agreement with Lake Erie College to allow students and faculty access to the Campus, Morgan Swamp Preserve, and other Conservancy preserves in northeast Ohio for guided research opportunities.
  • In 2015, the Conservancy is granted its third Great Lakes Restoration Initiative-funded project for northeast Ohio. The project resulted in the control of invasive species on an additional 500 acres throughout the Grand River watershed.
  • In 2014, the Civic Development Corporation of Ashtabula County gives the Conservancy a grant of $44,350 to create Accessible and primitive foot trails, an Accessible fishing pier, and interpretative signage. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife grants the Conservancy $6,000 to construct a canoe access point along the Grand River.
  • In 2013, outlying buildings are removed to reduce the Campus’ footprint and restore areas to a more natural condition.
  • In 2012, a Conservancy project funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative controls 400 acres of invasive species in the Ashtabula River watershed.
  • In 2011, the first Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)-funded project in the Grand River watershed results in the control of 831 acres of invasive plant species throughout the watershed.
  • In 2011, the Conservancy acquires the Grand River Conservation Campus through a generous donation from the Cleveland-based City Mission. This acquisition expands the Morgan Swamp Preserve by nearly 60 acres and increases protection efforts along the Grand River.

 

As part of the Morgan Swamp Preserve, the Grand River Conservation Campus harbors an array of interesting and rare species, many of which are associated with boreal habitats and are near the southern edge of their ranges in North America. Beautiful trails throughout the Campus provide the opportunity to take it all in, through a walk along the state designated Wild and Scenic Grand River and into a rich hemlock swamp, dotted with vernal pools that teem with life.

The Grand River Conservation Campus also offers a nature center, a playground, a pavilion, a fishing pier and trail, interpretive signage, a canoe launch and a gymnasium available for community rental.
 

Trail Access

  • Bliss Pond Trail — an easy .2 mile trail with overlooks of the Grand River and the Conservation Campus and a fishing pier.
  • Grand River Trail — an easy .3 mile trail along the Grand River that connects with the Hemlock Swamp & Bliss Pond trails.
  • Hemlock Swamp Trail — a moderate, 1-mile trail that starts from the Grand River Trail, winds through a unique hemlock yellow birch forest and overlooks a beaver pond.

NOTE: To ensure a safe and healthy environment for everyone, TNC Ohio events and field trips through June have been canceled, and the opening of the Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center is delayed until summer. Our preserves and trails remain open, but public restrooms will not be available. We encourage everyone to follow current health and safety precautions. 


 

Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center

Beginning on October 21, 2017, The Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center opened its doors for the first time.  The nature center will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm April through October. Special events, programs and tours are offered seasonally.

The center features exhibits for both adults and children depicting the natural history of Morgan Swamp Preserve and the Grand State Wild & Scenic River. The creation of this center was made possible through grassroots efforts and a strong volunteer base interested in enriching area communities. Local schools frequently visit the center for field trips and special programs.

For teachers and group organizers, see our list of programs offered at Bissell Nature Center.

Please contact bissellnaturecenter@tnc.org or 440-563-3081 for more information or to volunteer. 

The view inside the Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center with wildlife taxidermy and displays.
Bissell Nature Center The view inside the Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center with wildlife taxidermy and displays. © David Ike

Gymnasium Use and Rental Information

The Nature Conservancy in Ohio offers the gymnasium for hourly, daily and multi-day use at the Grand River Conservation Campus.

Gymnasium & Specifications:

  • Year-round use subject to advanced scheduling and availability
  • 8,000 square feet with concrete floors
  • Maximum 500 person capacity
  • 70 parking spaces with an ADA accessible parking space
  • Four basketball half-courts or two full-size courts, with four non-retractable basketball hoops.
  • Two volleyball courts including nets.
  • On-site kitchenette includes refrigerator, sink, counter tops, and storage area
  • Bins for trash and recycling 
  • Women's and men's restrooms with accessible stalls
  • Up to 100 folding chairs available.  Set up and take down of chairs is NOT provided.
  • Four 8' rectangular tables provided. Set up and take down of tables is NOT provided.
  • Facility use hours may fall between 8am and 10pm.
  • Special requests will be considered.
  • Please see the full GRCC Gymnasium Use & Rental Guide for more information

Contact Information:

For questions, or to reserve the gymnasium, please contact:  

Erin O'Rourke, eorourke@tnc.org, Phone: 614.717.2770 x 1001, Fax: 614.717.2777

To contact the Grand River Conservation Campus locally, call: 440.563.3081

Northeast Ohio Restoration Team

The Nature Conservancy has long been a leader in advancing restoration and stewardship of natural areas in Northeast Ohio. Working with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Pittman Robertson funding, we have been able to provide experienced stewardship teams to our conservation partners to assist in the restoration and stewardship of natural areas throughout the region.

Capacity, equipment, and expertise are common threads that continue to challenge sustainable restoration and stewardship of natural areas as new lands are protected and new threats emerge.  Recognizing this need, The Conservancy has created the Northeast Ohio Restoration Team to provide stewardship services for continuing conservation efforts in the region including knowledgeable staff, equipment and supplies.   

As part of our Restoration Team, the Nature Conservancy will be hosting two members of the Northern Ohio Watershed Corps (NOWCorps).  NOWCorps, funded through ServeOhio AmeriCorps, works with watershed groups, soil and water conservation districts, city and county government offices, and other conservation nonprofits to facilitate outreach, education, capacity building, environmental stewardship, and stormwater management.

Learn more about the NOWCorps program.

Meet the Northeast Ohio Restoration Team

Derrick Cooper Northeast Ohio Restoration Team Leader

Derrick Cooper—Northeast Ohio Restoration Team Leader
Derrick is a Northeast Ohio (NEOH) native with an educational background in Environmental Science from Cleveland State University. He previously worked as part of TNC’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) NEOH Coastal Invasive Strike Team and was the Crew Leader for the NEOH Pittman Robertson Crew.  Derrick brings with him a knowledge of the natural systems of Northeast Ohio, the current threats facing these systems and sound, practical approaches to addressing these threats. 

Andrew Haugh Northeast Ohio Restoration Team Member

Andrew Haugh—Northeast Ohio Restoration Team Member
Andrew graduated from Bowling Green State University with a degree in Environmental Policy in 2018. He is eager to get out working in the field and gaining experience in restoration and stewardship practices. 

Jess Wilson-Woodrow Northeast Ohio Restoration Team Member

Jess Wilson—Woodrow- Northeast Ohio Restoration Team Member
Jess received a bachelor's degree in Environmental Geology from Case Western Reserve University in the spring of 2019. His professional interests are centered primarily around freshwater stewardship and security.