Statewide Sweepstakes Encourages Ohioans To Explore Natural Landmarks

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The Nature Conservancy in Ohio has launched a statewide sweepstakes to encourage Ohioans to get outdoors this summer and see their state's best natural areas. 

"Natural Treasurers of Ohio" participants have until August 8th to visit one of 30 natural areas and photograph themselves in front of a designated landmark.
"It's really an attempt to encourage more Ohioans to get out and experience the more diverse and wonderful natural areas that we have right here in the state, and so we're adding a little bit of incentive," said Josh Knights, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. 
Sweepstakes participants must upload their photos to the Natural Treasurers website for their chance to win a new car. 
Knights said the 30 natural areas were carefully selected. 
"It was hard to get it down to that number. We had so many different areas that we looked at, but at the end of the day we picked 30 places, and we wanted to have a good balance in three categories," he said.  "We wanted to make sure that we were representing the diversity of Ohio's landscapes, so everything from Lake Erie to the Appalachian forest. We wanted to make sure that we had a good geographic mix, some close to urban areas, some a little further out depending on what people wanted to do. We also wanted to make sure that we were making this promotion as accessible as possible. So about 50 percent of the sites are compliant with [Americans with disabilities act] requirements."
Knights says he thinks too many people are turning their backs on the outdoors, and the contest is designed to remedy that.
"By encouraging people to think about bringing a digital camera or a smart phone, and a lot of people I think feel they don't want to necessarily go unplugged, especially the younger generation and some of our older population. This really encourages them to take advantage of those types of devices and to make it part of their experience out in the natural area," he said. "We also think that to the extent that people are more engaged and they understand what we have here in Ohio, they're more likely to be willing to step up and help protect them either financially or voting at the ballot box or writing their local park commissioner to say 'Hey these places are valuable to us. We really want to see them conserved and managed well."
Knights says several of the qualifying natural areas are here in Southeast Ohio, including Zaleski State Forest, Ash Cave and Conkle's Hollow State Nature preserve. 
The picture contest is sponsored by Honda of America.
"At the end of the day, we will use those photos to basically show how people are enjoying and taking advantage of our wonderful natural areas," said Knights. "We hope that people get really inspired and get creative about their entries."