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Norma Johnson Conservation Center

Come explore with us…You’ll LOVE it!

The Norma Johnson Center located outside of Dover, Ohio is a nature area open to the public every day of the year from dawn to dusk.  Norma Johnson Center’s 303 acres offer a place of solitude in which to observe wildlife, enjoy birding, view wildflowers or just take a brisk walk. Hike on our marked trails while observing first-hand how nature can be improved by care and management.  We encourage visitors to take advantage of over 6 miles of trails and our fishing ponds for your enjoyment. The Norma Johnson Center is a great place for a family picinic, group outing or summer meeting of your favorite community group.

Photographers Love It!

The word is out and area photographers are busy at work using the NJC as a backdrop.  Any day of the week one can visit the Center and see engagement pictures, senior pictures or family photos being taken.  The Norma Johnson Center is a great place to find that special place that can be captured and remembered for a life time.

Birders Love It!

Local bird enthusiast enjoy the NJC for the different types of birds that they can see during a hike,  The upper ridge trail on the Conservation Loop offers birders glimpses of warblers and other woodland creatures.  The bird sightings on the Preservation Trail can be bluebirds, field sparrows, tree and barn swallows.  The Johnson Loop  is a popular place for those birders who want to get away from the main trails and enjoy birds who are attracted to woodland and open meadow habitats.

Families Love It!

A favorite trail for families is the Conservation Loop trail.  Attractions near the parking lot such as the restroom, pond and picnic shelter this trail offers convenience and a trail with surprises.  Once away from the parking area hikers can travel across bridges, explore woodland hideouts, ID trees, explore the wetland critters and feel at peace sitting along the trail.

Dogs Love It!

Everyone feels cooped up from time to time even our pets.  Take your pet for a stroll on a leash and enjoy nature while your at it.  The only thing we request is clean up the mess when your done.

Fisherman Love It!

Five fishing ponds are available for you to test your line.  Two ponds are located on the Johnson Loop, 1 near the picnic shelter off of Conservation Drive and two ponds on the Preservation Loop – one just behind the yellow pole barn and the other on Maple Trail.  In 2017, we added an accessible fishing dock to the pond behind the yellow pole barn off of SR 39.  All we ask is that you follow the process of catch and release and clean up your area before leaving.  Leave no hooks, line or lures behind.  Otherwise let the fishing begin!

Runners Love It!

Test your endurance or build it up.  The trails at the NJC offer a variety of challenges.  Run along the grassy inclines of the Preservation and Johnson Loop trails or try out the mulched wooded trails on the Conservation Loop.  Each trail offers a challenge no matter where your sneakers carry you!

Future Brides Love It!

The red barn has become a venue for weddings at the NJC.  The red barn presents a beautiful setting and a clean slate for brides and grooms to create their own fantasty. Twinkling lights and the barns uniqueness create the perfect place to bring two people in love together. If the barn isn’t the place several places on the property could be made available for a small wedding.  Let the NJC be the start of your life together.

Hikers Love It!

Everyone has their favorite trail and spot along the different trail loops at the NJC.  Open meadows, ridges, hills or flat land, woodland trails, boardwalks, bouncy bridges, floating docks, the wetland or the duck blind, overlooking the Brandywine Valley or exploring the forest the NJC has something for everyone.  Explore and find your favorite spot today!   

Our Mission
The mission of the NJC is “To promote the conservation of natural resources through education, community outreach and personal experience.”

Foundation Board’s Role
All fundraising efforts are handled by the NJC foundation board and support the NJC mission stated above.

When Norma Johnson was a young girl she saw the beauty and tranquility of natural areas. Growing up a farmer’s daughter in the Brandywine Valley she noticed that forests, meadows and wildlife habitat were beginning to disappear with urban sprawl. She felt the need to protect natural areas so that future generations would have a place to ramble, reflect, learn and enjoy.

As a young adult, Norma Johnson saw the beauty and impact of natural areas for all to enjoy. While farming and learning she realized that as the years go on highways and people would swell into the Brandywine Valley. She saw the need that “acres of trees, ponds, and wildlife would be most refreshing for people to wander over now and in the future”. With this vision and the efforts of the community the 303 acre Norma Johnson Center Conservation Center and Nature Preserve came to be for now and future generations.

In 1989, Norma Johnson donated 63 acres to the Tuscarawas County Soil and Water Conservation District (Tusc SWCD). Much work was needed to prepare the property for use due to the coal mining that had taken place through the years. With community sponsors and dedicated volunteers roads, trails, bridges, and conservation practices were put into place on the non reclaimed strip ground to make the land available for public trail use. Programs were developed and school groups were invited to come to the Norma Johnson Conservation Center and learn about non-point and point source pollution, soil erosion, dry dams and grassy waterways, acid mine drainage, food plots, silt fences, forest practices and so much more.

After Norma’s death her daughter Susan Covey followed through with her mothers wishes and transferred 240 acres to the Tuscarawas County Commissioners in September 1998. This land transfer included the yellow pole barn where Norma lived with her sheep, the reclaimed land stretching back to the Tusc SWCD property and over 80 acres on the southside of SR 39 west of Gasser Road.

In 2001, the Conservation Center and Nature Preserve with similar goals and objectives, joined forces to create the Norma Johnson Center. This 303 acre retreat is owned by the Tuscarawas County Soil and Water Conservation District (63 acres) and Tuscarawas County (240 acres) who work together to make this hidden treasure available to the public now and in the future.

barnBarn History
The 1861 Christian Pershing Barn at the Norma Johnson Center located on the Conservation Side is on The National Historic Registry in 1991 by the Department of Interior. This barn contains the architectural features associated with the Switzer Barn type. The building maintains a high degree of historic integrity and is a rare example of this type in Tuscarawas County.

Originally from Germany the Pershing Family settled in York County, PA in 1749. He married and took barn building up as a profession. Christian Pershing, JR. lived from 1786-1866.

marsha.smMarsha Freeland: Norma Johnson Center Director.

Marsha Freeland joined the Tuscarawas Soil and Water Conservation District staff as the Norma Johnson Director in February of 2005. For the last several years she has spearheaded programs that continually involves the community at the NJC. Marsha has degrees in Education from The Ohio State University and Walden University. She has worked as Project Reach Director at Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum and as a teacher in the Harrison Hills School District. Marsha and her family live near Gnadenhutten, Ohio.


Kris Kahler : Maintenance Department

When you visit the Norma Johnson Center you may see a man riding around on a mower, the Kawasaki Mule or fishing at the ponds on his day off. His name is Kris Kahler and he is the maintenance man and groundskeeper. Kris is busy keeping the trails mowed and the property looking its best. His daughter Brooklyn is usually working beside him during the summer months volunteering at the NJC.   If you see him during your visit stop and say Hi. We are honored to have Kris on our staff.

Tusc SWCD Board Members
Melvin Lahmers, Matt Leggett; Bob Demuth, Treasurer; Eric Quillin; Tim Sigrist
Norma Johnson Conservation Board Members
Mary Jane John, Renee Clark, Kip Brady, Bob Demuth, Shirley Everhart, Marissa Lautzenheiser, Cody Kiser
Tuscarawas County Commissioners
Chris Abbuhl, Al Landis, Joe Sciarretti