Natural History Hike Illustrates the Stories Within Grant Park

Standing amid “the chimneys” along a forested path not far inside the network of trails at Grant Park, hikers are known to envision what life was like in simpler times, when a home stood here.

The chimneys are all that remain of the Grant family’s weekend cabin, built around 1927. The main structure was lost to a fire in the late 1960s. Stone for the chimneys was gathered from the banks of Holes Creek, just a few steps away.

Today the area where the chimneys sit is a beloved picnicking spot at a 189-acre nature reserve that is surrounded by neighborhoods, but retains the ambiance of a remote oasis. Established in 1963, Grant Park was once the country estate of Richard H. Grant and was called Normandy Farms.

Trails in the park wind along creeks and through meadow, forest, prairie and wetland habitats. Some trails follow ridgelines or bottomlands, while others climb fairly steep hills. Grant Park’s Natural History Hike is an ideal way to discover the sanctuary.

The Bridge

Before construction of this bridge, visitors crossed into the park by walking on large logs across the creek. Holes Creek collects rain from much of Washington Township, carrying it to the Great Miami River and eventually all the way to the ocean.

The Reynolds Foundation

The concrete structure is an abandoned house foundation. The Reynolds family started to build on this site, but decided on land more convenient to roads. They never finished this house, which serves as a place to explore.

The Rhino Tree

Some say it looks like a rhino, but the growth is actually called a burl. Burls are caused by bacteria, fungi or a virus. All have the potential to impact a tree’s growth pattern.

The Prairie

This area, best observed by sitting on a bench overlooking the prairie and pond below, was once a farm field that has been converted back into a flourishing ecosystem. The grasses and forbs provide food and shelter for animals like the Eastern cottontail rabbit, meadow vole and fox. Native wildflowers offer seeds and nectar to birds and butterflies.

The Old Farm Lane

This was once the Grant family’s farm lane, stretching from Paragon Road to Alex-Bell Road. The lane crossed Holes Creek twice and wound through the woods. Leftover fencing is among the clues indicating the path’s former use.

Owlexander’s Sculpture

Owlexander, the Centerville-Washington Park District mascot, lives in Grant Park and is the host of Owlexander’s Hoot Route, a half-mile crushed gravel and dirt path that is wheelchair and stroller accessible. The trail has plaques that tell stories about animals and plants in the park. The trailhead is located at Grant Park’s Normandy Elementary School entrance, at 501 Normandy Ridge Road.

Centerville-Washington Park District operates eight community parks, nine nature parks and 34 neighborhood parks, encompassing more than 1,000 acres in Centerville-Washington Township. For more information and a brochure illustrating the Natural History Hike, visit