Prairie Picking

The loss of prairies to farming and sprawl has plagued Ohio, but volunteers and wildlife officials are helping to restore thriving pockets in several local parks.

You can help the cause at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Prairie Oaks Metro Park, where rangers and volunteers will harvest wildflower seeds to sow later this fall after fields undergo controlled burns.

"We've put in about 600 acres of prairie using the original seed from the Darby Plains that once extended down from Toledo into the southeastern portion of Ohio," spokeswoman Peg Hanley said.

Machines harvest seeds from the park's tall grasses, but collecting seeds from bloomers must be done by hand. Naturalists will instruct first-timers on proper technique for grabbing next year's coneflowers, asters, sunflowers and royal catchflies.

After they're picked, seeds are stored, dried, cleaned and then sown in late fall according to a strategic plan, Hanley explained. Those collected next week will boost tracts in several Metro Parks, including Prairie Oaks, Battelle-Darby and Sharon Woods.

Volunteers should wear long pants and sleeves, sturdy shoes and work gloves. The rain date is Friday, Oct. 16. For more info, contact Carrie Morrow at morrow@metroparks.net.

Lovely Lions

The adorable Beco got some competition Sept. 22 when three cubs were born to African lions at the Columbus Zoo, the first there since 1985.

Mother Asali and father Tomo, both first-time parents, will remain in a secluded den for several months as they care for their young.

Threatened by agricultural expansion and human population growth, the number of African lions has declined by 50 percent during the past two decades. The Columbus breeding was suggested by a Species Survival Plan that aims to enhance the genetic diversity of captive populations.

The family is doing well, according to a recent release. Viewing hours are pending.

Web: columbuszoo.org

Cycling Safety

Two state senators have introduced a bill that would establish a safe lateral distance of three feet when a motorized vehicle passes a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle.

Democrat Teresa Fedor and Republican Mark Wagoner saw the need for the legislation during a bike ride from Toledo to Columbus with a group of cycling advocates.

"Through that experience, we definitely realized first-hand how critically important it was to have the safer passing legislation," Fedor said.

She cited significant support for the bill and expects it to move quickly through the Ohio General Assembly.

"This [bill] is to take it to the next level - to make sure we realize that bikers on the road need to be treated with respect and with safety," Wagoner added.

Web: considerbiking.org

Weekend Warrior

Westerville's Hoover Reservoir is one of the most beautiful places in Central Ohio - a lake ringed with trees about to turn bright and colorful.

To enjoy it this weekend, all you need is a blanket and a small patch of grass at the park just north of Sunbury and County Line roads. In addition to fall foliage, check out regattas hosted by the Hoover Sailing Club all day Saturday, Oct. 10, and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday.

Web: hooversailingclub.com

Outdoor Tip of the Month

Fall is a great time for camping - brisk hikes by day, cozy fires at night. The hard part is getting up in the morning, when your breath is frosty and the tent feels like ice. To ease your morning, put next day's clothes at the bottom of your sleeping bag before you go to bed. Your body heat will warm them up during the night.

For more outdoor adventures and Nature Notes, click to the Venture blog.