T. J. Evans Bike Path webpage
T. J. Evans Bike Path map
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T. J. Evans Bike Path–Harndens Mill Preserve to Cherry Valley Rd.
Coordinates: 40.0560031, -82.4883019
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Wildwood Park, Granville
Harndens Mill Preserve
Photos by Rob Thorn
This path runs for nearly 19 miles, from rural Johnstown, down the Raccoon River valley to urban Newark. It’s an old rail-to-trail, and enough time has passed that most of the route is shaded by sizeable trees. That said, forest blocks are mostly narrow and small along the path (with one striking exception), so you’re mostly riding a treed corridor through farm fields. For birding potential, we’ll break the path up into 5 segments, giving a general overview of each, and suggesting short stretches that have proven to have diverse birds. I describe these sections running west to east.
Johnstown to Alexandria. (Jersey Road to Mounts Road, 6 miles)
This stretch is mostly farm fields in uplands north of Raccoon Creek, with occasional small woodlots. The largest of these sits between Concord Road and Windy Hollow Road, and can be worth checking for forest birds, including Barred Owls, Acadian Flycatchers, and Scarlet Tanagers. There is a nearby Great Blue Heron rookery along Raccoon Creek near OH-310, so seeing flyover herons is not unusual here in Spring.
Alexandria to Granville. (Mounts Road to Bicentennial Park, 4 miles)
This stretch descends into the floodplain of Raccoon Creek, where it follows a fairly straight path north of the Creek. Mostly farm fields, but the stretch from Mounts Road east to the Lobdell Creek Bridge descends gradually through a narrow hillside forest to the farm fields around the creek confluence and has several different habitats that make it good for a diversity of birds. Further east is mostly farm fields along the creek, but there has been a Bald Eagle nest in the riparian strip trees a bit over 3 miles along.
Granville, west to east. (Bicentennial Park to Clouse Road, OH-16 underpass, 2.0 miles)
This stretch becomes a mix of suburban yards, parks, and conservation preserves. Raccoon Valley in Granville has a series of parks – Bicentennial, Sugar Loaf, Wildwood, Raccoon Valley playfields – as well as a little urban area where it crosses OH-37. The mix of habitats makes for unpredictable birding, and generally the stretch east of OH-37 is more productive, passing by the town cemetery, the outlet of Clay Run, a side bridge over to the Raccoon Valley playfields, and a cow pasture.
Harndens Mill Preserve to Newark border. (Clouse Road, OH-16 underpass to Cherry Valley Road, 2.2 miles)
This is the surprise – a beautiful linear forested hillside and riparian forest strip, mostly in preserves and conservation easements. It’s shady and cool, and very birdy even on the warmest summer days; expect lots of forest birds, including some surprises. Northern Parulas, Redstarts, and Broad-winged Hawks have nested here. Also expect to share the path with other people, since Newark residents use this stretch as a “walk/run/bike in the woods.”
Newark Border to central Newark (Cherry Valley Road to 21st Street, 3.7 miles)
This is a rather fast transition into urban greenbelt, as the bike path is squeezed between Raccoon Creek and the bustling freeway of OH-16. There are a few patches of green along the route, particularly Flory Park near the east end, so the potential for trapping migrants is good. The slower creek and several ponds created from the freeway usually have geese and Mallard flocks that can harbor unusual strays.
From Rob Thorn
About T. J. Evans Bike Path
The T.J. Evans trail is one of Ohio’s first rail trails and features great scenery and history from Newark to Johnstown in Licking County.
From T. J. Evans Bike Path webpage
Restroom facilities are located at the Johnstown parking lot, Wildwood Park in Granville, and Flory Park in Newark.