Bike Month 2021

May is bike month, and what better time to take advantage of our area’s bike trails! Olander Park & the Quarry Ridge Bike Trail, that connects Sylvan Prairie Park and Fossil Park, are wonderful, easy trails perfect for the whole family. Check out the map of the trail below.

Looking to bike around Sylvania?

Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments – Bike Events

Bicycles are soaring in popularity and families are eager to learn where and how they can ride safely. In May, TMACOG (Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments) supports recreational bicycle riders and works to encourage the use of bikes for commuting and errands. You can participate in their Bike Trail Challenge and get all kinds of awesome rewards! Plus, May 21 is Bike to Work Day! Check out these links for more information!

​Other events in May

Ride of Silence: May 17, 6:45pm ~ This annual ride remembers those injured or killed while cycling on the public roadways. This is a joint event for NW Ohio including Toledo, Bowling Green and Findlay with guest speakers from each city. After a short livecast, please take a solo ride or small group with adherence to COVID guidelines, to complete our 2021 Ride of Silence! More info can be found at



Blue Week 2021

Blue Week is Here!

May is one of our busier months here at TOPS. Getting ready for summer, training new staff, making the parks look great, welcoming many more visitors, all keep us on our toes. That makes it easy to overlook one very exciting week: Blue Week!!

What’s that, you say? Blue Week, annually the second week in May, is when we take time out to celebrate the amazing and rare ecosystem we live in, the Oak Openings Region! Is the soil in your yard sandy? There’s a good chance you are part of the Oak Openings Region!

This globally rare habitat is home to the most endangered species in Ohio. Yes, I said GLOBALLY rare! The Nature Conservancy considers it one of the  “200 Last Great Places On Earth.” This week is a great time to learn and explore this amazing ecosystem in our backyards!

The full schedule of events can be found here: 

Plus, TOPS has some fun virtual activities for you at

Take a hike or attend a virtual event to find out more about the area. Bats, birds, and biking are all topics covered. Find out about the beautiful flowers that grow here, and how you can use them in your garden! 

Take some time out this week, as the weather improves, to get to know where you live a little bit better. We can’t wait to see you and spend some time in this amazing place we live. 

American Woodcocks

American Woodcocks at Sylvan Prairie Park

This past month has been a great time to hear and see American Woodcocks at Sylvan Prairie Park. Woodcocks are well known for their spectacular courtship display. On spring nights, males perform very conspicuous displays, giving a buzzy “peent” call, then launching into the air. Their erratic display flight includes a distinctive, twittering flight sound and ends with a steep dive back to the ground. Have you seen or heard this magical event?

American Woodcocks are plump, short-legged shorebirds with very long, straight bills. They are about the same size as a robin. Their light brown, black, buff, and gray-brown mottled feather patterns help them blend in well with their surroundings. You can find them hidden in fields and on the forest floor, where they probe for earthworms. The variety of nicknames for this bird are entertaining and reflect their preferred habitat and their courtship behavior. They include: the timberdoodle, the bogsucker, the hokumpoke, and the Labrador twister, night partridge, big-eye, and mudbat.

Woodcocks migrate back and forth between northern breeding areas and southern wintering grounds. In spring and summer, they breed in the North, from Atlantic Canada west to the Great Lakes area. In autumn they fly to lowlands from the Carolinas west to eastern Texas, with the greatest concentration of birds wintering in Louisiana and Mississippi. Woodcock migrate north again in February, March, and April, homing to the same areas where they were hatched.

Check out these links to learn more about the American Woodcock


Check out the diagram below showing the courtship flight of the American Woodcock. 

Watch a YouTube video of the American Woodcock courtship display:

Lourdes University Lends Lots of Helping Hands!

On Friday, October 7, 2016, Sylvan Prairie Park’s south parking lot was full!!! If you happened to look around the park that morning, terracotta and black clothing was seen at every corner and even a few could be found in the middle of the prairie! Over 60 Lourdes University students, faculty, and staff came to lend a helping hand with The Olander Park System’s Natural Resources Team during their morning of service.

With shovels, gloves, trowels, and bags in hand, everyone was off to help make environmental impacts restoring riparian (stream-side) habitat on two ditches in the park and collecting milkweed seeds for Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI) ( on a beautiful sunny day. Five 25 gallon totes were overflowing with collected milkweed seeds that morning. More than 200 trees and 500 plants were planted in the riparian zones, as part of a stream-side restoration project funded by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, under the provisions of Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act.

The Lourdes students were able to learn about the park, our restoration efforts, and OPHI up close with a hands on approach. Some hands were dirty, and others sticky! But, we all enjoyed the camaraderie and sunshine while making a difference in our community!

Thank you for sharing your time and talents with us!!!! As one student mentioned, “This was great!, I can come back in 5 years and say I planted that!” Please do! We hope you will come back and watch the changes you helped make possible and often!  We hope to see you all at the park again soon! img_20161007_110737293_hdr img_20161007_114634087 img_20161007_104911848 img_20161007_102032435

Lourdes University helps out at Sylvan Prairie Park

Lourdes University has been encouraging their students to volunteer with The Olander Park System (TOPS) for years. Students help us with monitoring stream health, measuring changes in plant community, planting trees and other native plants, and controlling non-native invasive plants.

Dr. James Minesky, Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences, is one of the driving forces behind Lourdes University’s partnership with Olander. He recently said, “We bring Lourdes University students to volunteer with The Olander Park System because TOPS is a fabulous community asset and we believe it is important for students to be involved in volunteer work and service learning that supports and enhances the assets and resources in our community. A college education is about more than earning a degree in a particular discipline – it is also about understanding the resources and challenges in your given community and how a person’s education can help improve the quality of life in the community.”

CLICK HERE for an article about a recent day when Lourdes University helped plant trees at Sylvan Prairie Park.

Photo by Helene Sheets. Accessed from

ZOOTeens at Sylvan Prairie Park

A group of ten ZOOTeens joined The Olander Park System’s Natural Resources Team to help out our native plants and wildlife at Sylvan Prairie Park this week.

The teens pulled piles and piles of the non-native invasive plant, Spotted Knapweed. If left unchecked, the weed can dominate a site, out-competing our native plants and making the area less diverse. Less diversity in the plant community means less types of native insects and wildlife can live there.


ZOOTeens pull knapweed at Sylvan Prairie

The ZOOTeens have been volunteering to do this kind of conservation work at TOPS Parks every month for over a decade!


Timberstone Junior High Helps Out at Sylvan Prairie Park

On May 12, eighty 7th graders from Timberstone Junior High School spent their school day outside at The Olander Park System’s Sylvan Prairie Park. The students planted 300 native trees and shrubs, and 1,000 native grasses and wildflowers, and participated in an educational water quality activity led by Partners for Clean Streams’ Mike Mathis.2016-05-12 13.32.42

This is the 5th year Timberstone Junior High’s 7th Grade Reading class has partnered with The Olander Park System for this day of community service. Teachers Melissa Dubiel and Tammy Gordon organize the 7th Grade class’s annual community service program called “Packed with Pride.” Each year, the 7th Grade Reading students organize, publicize and complete drives for local organizations. This year they collected items for Paws and Whiskers, Hannah’s Socks, Fellowship Matters and Austin’s Book Club. The field trip to help The Olander Park System plant trees is a culminating activity for a year of helping the community. The school funds the field trip through a grant from Target.

Sampling the Stream

Sampling the Stream

This year at the field day, teachers Joe Wendt, Ellen Bellemore and Melissa Dubiel supervised groups of students who worked with staff from The Olander Park System to plant native trees and grasses and wildflowers at Sylvan Prairie Park. The planting is part of a floodplain restoration project financed through a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, under the provisions of Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act. Olander Parks designed the project to create new wildlife habitat in the floodplain and improve water quality in the streams of Sylvan Prairie Park. The 7th graders learned about these water quality benefits and about the critters that need clean streams to survive during a fun hands-on stream activity put on by Mike Mathis from Partners for Clean Streams.

Living Things in the Stream

Living Things in the Stream

The 7th graders were excited to see wildlife using the land they were helping to restore. They saw Leopard Frogs, American Toads, Deer Mice (babies!), Crayfish, Snapping Turtle (baby!), Killdeer (eggs!), Red-tailed Hawk, and even a Long-bodied Cellar Spider eating ants. TOPS was excited to partner with the school and Partners for Clean Streams to make the “Packed with Pride” field trip a meaningful learning experience for the 7th Graders of Timberstone and to promote a connection with nature in this young generation.

Spring Ephemeral Wildflowers

You’ve heard that April Showers Bring May Flowers. But there are beautiful wildflowers blooming in April, too! We call them Spring Ephemerals because they bloom in Spring, and they don’t last very long! They are small flowers that grow in shady spots in the woods. We have several species of spring ephemeral wildflowers in the little pockets of woods at Sylvan Prairie Park, including those pictured here, plus Virginia Waterleaf, Nodding Trillium, Giant Trillium, Spring Beauty, White Trout Lily, and Wild Ginger. They’re still blooming now, but they won’t be for long, so head out to your favorite wooded park and take a look!

Wild Blue Phlox

Wild Blue Phlox by Todd Crail

yellow trout lily

Yellow Trout Lily by Maureen Bogdanski

dutchmans breeches

Dutchman’s Breeches by Todd Crail

TOPS Works to Reduce Invasive Phragmites

Phragmites. What is it? How did it get here? Why is it significant? Let me tell you!

The common reed, Phragmites australis, is an aggressively invasive plant species that can be found in many wetlands in the region. Phragmites is an exotic species, which means it is not native to our area. It was brought over to North America from Eurasia to be used as an ornamental plant in aquatic areas.

Phragmites is wind-pollinated and produces a large flowering head in late summer

Phragmites is wind-pollinated and produces a large flowering head in late summer

Phragmites grows in dense stands that can reach 15 feet in height. These groupings choke out other plant species, effectively forming a monoculture. The plant also produces toxins that inhibit the growth of competing plant species. In addition, stands of Phragmites are unsuitable habitat for many animals because it grows too thick.

At Sylvan Prairie Park, our Conservation Team is working to reduce and eventually eradicate Phragmites. In September, we treat the plants with herbicide to kill the new growth before it can spread. We then return in the winter to cut down the standing dead stalks to open up the area. Over several years of management, the stands of Phragmites have noticeably decreased, giving way to native plant species that are starting to flourish.

Cutting Phragmites

Volunteers from University of Toledo’s Department of Environmental Sciences help TOPS cut dead stands of phragmites at Sylvan Prairie Park.

Phragmites grows in dense monocultures, choking out native plant life

Phragmites grows in dense monocultures, choking out native plant life