A recent study found that people who live within close proximity to a park experienced lower rates of 15 different health conditions, including depression and anxiety.

A recent study found that people who live within close proximity to a park experienced lower rates of 15 different health conditions, including depression and anxiety.

I live pretty far from the 300,000 Dutch people surveyed by the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, but I'll add my own anecdotal evidence to those results.

Simply put, I need green space. I need it often, I need it close.

Wherever I live, I find at least one go-to place for thinking, observing and being generally quieter than I am in person. I get to know the space. I stand by and watch it shift through four seasons.

Living Downtown, it was the Topiary Park next to the main library. In German Village, it was the Whittier Peninsula. Currently, staying at the southern end of Clintonville, it's a peculiar, surprisingly brilliant wetland maintained by Ohio State University.

Officially, this facility is known as the Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. That's kind of a mouthful. More informally, it's known as OSU's living classroom.

It doesn't look like much at a glance. In fact, you've probably driven or even biked past without stopping to notice what researchers started carving out in 1992 along the Olentangy Greenway Trail, just north of Dodridge Street.

That's right: This crucial wetland preserve is within walking distance of Ravari Room.

Today, the 52-acre complex includes two kidney-shaped marshes, a giant oxbow, a storm-water garden, small ponds and a meandering stream that returns marsh-filtered water to the river. Hiking trails, observation decks and a welcome center allow visitors to walk through the wetlands and learn more about their purpose.

I've been doing so quite regularly.

If you bird, you'll see 15 types before you leave the parking lot - and more unique species, like spotted sandpipers and greater yellowlegs, often popping in. Other wildlife - red fox, beavers, leopard frogs, rabbits - abounds.

You feel as if can see an entire ecosystem in action. It's like being able to walk through a giant terrarium.

River water was first pumped in on March 4, 1994, and the facility has hosted groundbreaking research ever since. Scientists have witnessed how wetlands clean and retain water, prevent floods and provide habitat for a variety of flora and fauna.

"We've seen the birth of a wetland," said Bill Mitsch, the project's director and guiding force. "It's given us a lot of insight into how we should be managing our wetlands, especially the ones we restore or create."

More than half of the world's marshlands have been lost to drainage and development.Ohio is an especially tragic case, with only about 10 percent of its original wetland areas remaining.

Mitsch's brainchild is helping to raise awareness about that decline and how to reverse the trend.

"There's so much temptation that we all have to control things, to mow our lawns," he said. "But we just let it rip and see how it plays out."

Because of its educational and ecological missions, the Olentangy park was named a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 2008. Other sites on that list? Everglades National Park and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, to name a few.

More than just somewhere to unwind, this wetland is a reminder that precious places often lie in our own backyard and that remote spaces aren't the only ones worth saving.

Looking for other natural niches? Check out the Ohio Adventure Map at columbusalive.com/venture.