Happy Birthday, Ohio: Celebrating 219 Years of Parks

In Ohio, March 1st is celebrated as Statehood Day, or Ohio’s birthday, since it was on that day in 1803 that the newly-elected Ohio General Assembly took up state business for the first time in its then-capital, Chillicothe. This year, our beloved Buckeye State will celebrate its 219th birthday.

Today, Ohio’s 75 state parks, from the shores of Lake Erie to the waters of the great Ohio River, are among our most treasured places. Ohio is one of only seven in the nation where park admission remains free. Because of this, everyone can enjoy the benefits of our parks—whether it be by wandering trails, attending community events, spending time with friends, or simply finding moments of quiet respite in the outdoors.

Ohio’s Statehood

Ohio’s constitution was approved by Congress in early 1803 and signed by President Thomas Jefferson on February 19, making it the 17th state of the Union. Due to an oversight, Congress never took a formal vote back in 1803, thus Ohio wasn’t “officially” admitted to the United States until August 7, 1953.

The great outdoors has always been a treasured asset of Ohio, and its residents have long been drawn to the woods and waters throughout the state. In fact, Ohio is recognized as the Buckeye State due to the prevalence of Buckeye trees within the state’s borders. And it was after the Canal Era (1800-1850) ended that a number of artificial lakes and surrounding lands became popular destinations for outdoor recreation and family outings.

Ohio's statehood birthday is celebrated by highlighting Buckeye Lake, Ohio's oldest stat park.

Ohio State Parks 

Those lands, including Ohio’s first state park, Buckeye Lake, were combined with forest parks, such as Hocking Hills, to become the foundation of today’s modern park system. It was after World War II when the 98th General Assembly created the Division of Parks (now the Ohio State Parks and Watercraft) within the new Ohio Department of Natural Resources, effective October 7, 1949.

Each year, millions of visitors explore the parks. In 2020, the parks hosted 2.7 million overnight guests. Thousands more hike, bike, and paddle across the system’s 1,500 miles of land and water trails or enjoy recreation availed by the 70 sparkling lakes. As national interest in outdoor activities—especially camping, hiking, and kayaking—continues to rise, our park system is a more valuable asset than ever.

With your support, the Ohio State Parks Foundation can continue to care for and enrich the parks we love. We are excited to celebrate Ohio’s 75+ parks and encourage our community to help us maintain our beautiful parks to enjoy year-round by donating today.