Wobbecke Was Tireless River Corridor Promoter
Ken Wobbecke will be remembered for his boundless imagination and energy. Wobbecke, who died Thursday (Aug. 6) at the age of 89, worked right up to the end, promoting tourism in the Mohican River corridor in north central Ohio.
Although he knew his time was short and his health fading, Wobbecke pressed on with two historical events last month at his Mohican Wilderness Campground: “A Salute to the Wally Railroad” and a Civil War re-enactment, according to the Ashland Times Gazette.
The thing Wobbecke was most proud of was acquiring 600 acres of farmland along a two-mile stretch of the Mohican River in Knox County and creating a campground and recreational facility dedicated to preserving nature and the region’s rich history.
At the “Salute to the Wally” event last month, retired Danville teacher and historian David Greer praised Wobbecke for what he had done with land that formerly belonged to Greer’s uncle.
“It was productive then and it’s productive now in ways we could never have imagined,” Greer said.
Wobbecke was instrumental in establishing the region’s private campground industry. He purchased 300 acres on Wally Road in the 1960s and spent the next half-century expanding and developing Mohican Wilderness Campground. He constantly added new recreational and historical features, including a first-class mountain bike trail, nature preserve, swinging bridge and replicas of a railroad station and covered bridge.
“He did a lot for this area and he needs to be remembered,” said Patty Shannon. “He helped pioneer it.”
She and her husband, Doug, own Mohican Adventures canoe livery and campground south of Loudonville. They have been in the business since 1972.
Patty Shannon admired Wobbecke’s creativity.
“He was an out-of-the-box thinker,” she said. “He really loved the area.”
In addition to bringing in traditional craftsmen every summer, Wobbecke and his family hosted the Mohican Bluegrass Festival and other events at the campground. In 2000, Wobbecke spearheaded what would be the second effort to obtain Ohio scenic byway designation for Wally Road.
Five years later, with the help of others involved in tourism and historical preservation along the Mohican River corridor, Wally Road became Ohio’s 19th scenic byway.
Among those instrumental in seeing Wobbecke’s scenic byway designation effort to fruition was longtime area tourism promoter and Wobbecke’s neighbor, Bill Conrad.
“He was a legend, really,” Conrad said. “He had a lot of great ideas.”
Conrad recalled that some of those ideas might have seemed far-fetched at the time, but Wobbecke always found ways to make them work.
“Once he got an idea, there was no way you were going to deter him,” Conrad said. “It was like a storybook of ideas that he fulfilled. To the end, he knew exactly what he wanted.”
Loudonville-Mohican Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director Bob Yun was impressed that Wobbecke sought him out and stopped by for a chat shortly after Yun assumed leadership of the bureau last year.
He also appreciated the role Wobbecke played in bringing tourism to the area.
“In starting the Mohican Tourism Association in the 1960s, Ken had a vision of what the Mohican area could become — a great tourist destination,” Yun said. “He leaves with us a legacy that will endure for many years.”
Wobbecke also was a strong supporter of scouting. He had been involved with the Boy Scouts since he was 12 years old. Wobbecke went through great efforts to make Mohican Wilderness facilities available to the scouts. In 2007, he organized the Mohican Scout Congress, which ultimately linked a dozen troops from surrounding counties and provided recreational activities and camping opportunities for them.