Louis M. Groen Nature Preserve
Louis Groen opened the first McDonald's in the Cincinnati area but in 1962 was struggling to save his floundering hamburger franchise. His problem was a heavily Roman Catholic clientele which back then abstained from meat every Friday, as well as during Lent, the 40-day period of repentance. Groen’s solution was the Filet-O-Fish and that led to a wager with McDonald's founder, Ray Kroc, who had his own meatless idea; the Hula Burger, a cold bun with a slice of pineapple and cheese on top.
“Well, Lou, I'm going to put your fish sandwich on (a menu) for a Friday but I'm going to put my special sandwich on, too,” Kroc said to Groen. “Whichever sells the most, that's the one we'll go with.”
Needless to say, the Hula Burger is long gone but the Filet-O-Fish is still around and not only saved Groen’s business but allowed him to open 42 more McDonald franchises in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. It also allowed him to purchase the property surrounding Johannesburg and Kujawa Lakes after selling most of his restaurants in 1986.
Groen and his wife enjoyed the property for 22 years and then left the tract to Otsego County to be used as a nature preserve when he passed away in 2011 at the age of 93. The Louis M. Groen Nature Preserve opened to the public the following year.
The preserve is crisscrossed with trails, many of them old two-tracks that are marked with 86 numbered junctions. A map in this park is a necessity. The trail system is shared by day hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. In the winter it’s a destination for snowshoers and cross country skiers. At an elevation of almost 1,400 feet the park receives an abundance of snow and grooms it into a pair of 3-mile loops, one for classic skiers, the other for skate skiers. Snowshoe rentals are also available at the preserve.
Despite the maze of trails, the system at Louis M. Groen Nature Preserve is well marked and easy to follow. Four loops – Path A (Yellow), Path B (Blue) Path C (Green) and Path D (Red) – are marked and begin at the trailhead with Path A featuring a series of interpretive signage. The hike that is described here is a combination of Path A and Path C that forms a 4.3-mile loop into the most scenic and interesting areas of the park.
|Difficulty - Moderate|
|Difficulty - Easy|
|Groomed Classic Skiing|
|Groomed Skate Skiing|