by William Eric McFadden

From the wildlife area's website:

Urbana Wildlife Area is a 548-acre refuge area located 3 miles north of Urbana. The property is in Champaign county.



Eric's station On Wednesday, February 15, 2023, one members of the Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team performed a successful activation of Urbana Wildlife Area in Ohio as part of the Parks on the Air (POTA; link) program.

Eric McFadden, WD8RIF, visited Urbana Wildlife Area while on the way home from a fascinating guided tour of the Champaign Aviation Museum (link), where volunteers are essentially building a new B-17G, and an activation of Davey Woods State Nature Preserve (link). Eric arrived at the wildlife area's only access point at about 2010 UTC, finding an open but somewhat scary-looking gate at the entrance. (More about this gate below.) Eric explored the short road and selected a place to perform his activation, deploying his 28½' wire vertical on his Jackite 31' telescoping fiberglass mast on a drive-on mount, mounting his KX3 inside the car, and was on the air at 2020 UTC.

An impressive tree Eric was pleased to find he had good cell-signal at this location, so that he would be able to spot himself on POTA Spots (link) and to consult POTA Spots to identify possible park-to-park (P2P) QSO opportunities.

Eric began his operation on 20m by finding a frequency to run, began calling "CQ POTA", and was pleased to be quickly auto-spotted on POTA Spots. Eric's first QSO came at 2023 UTC with K2KS in New Jersey. QSOs came quickly, with Eric's twenty-ninth QSO coming only twenty-five minutes later at 2048 UTC with NZ7Q in New Mexico. This run included a P2P QSO with KO4NTA who was activating Colt Creek State Park (K-1848) in Florida; a DX QSO with SP9RXP in Poland; a DX QSO with DM3KP in Germany; and QSOs with operators located in New Jersey, Mississippi, Georgia (2), North Carolina (2), New York (2), Florida (5), Missouri (2), Utah (2), Oregon, Kansas, Quebec, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Idaho, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.

In all, Eric made twenty-nine QSOs, including one P2P QSO, in twenty-eight minutes of on-air time. All of Eric's QSOs were CW and were made with five watts output.

The Locked Gate!

The gate After tear-down, Eric received a rude shock upon seeing the gate closed and locked—with him in his car on the wrong side of the gate!

Eric first action was to check the ODNR website (link), but he found no telephone number listed there. Having no other options, Eric was forced to call 911 and state that he wasn't having an emergency but was trapped inside the Urbana Wildlife Area. The 911 dispatcher confirmed that Eric was in Champaign County and transferred him to the Champaign County non-emergency dispatcher, who promised to contact ODNR. A few minutes later, Eric received a call-back from someone at the ODNR office in Columbus who promised to contact the supervisor of Urbana Wildlife Area.

While Eric was waiting for further word from ODNR, he explored the area around the gate on foot and was able, with some small amount of difficulty, to position himself appropriately to see that there was on the fence a small sign stating that a permit was required to enter the Urbana Wildlife Area—a sign he had completely missed on his arrival earlier—and began to fear that he might be looking at being cited for unauthorized entry and being required to pay a fine .

Eric did finally receive a call from ODNR; the supervisor had been contacted and would return to the wildlife area to open the gate.

The supervisor arrived about ninety minutes after Eric first discovered he was trapped and explained that he lived within the unit and that the gate is usually left closed and locked. He added that the Urbana Wildlife Area was, in fact, the Urbana Wildlife Refuge and has essentially no public access.

Perhaps after seeing the amateur radio callsign license plate on Eric car, the supervisor asked if Eric had visited the park to do amateur radio, and then explained that the previous seven activators had performed their operations outside the locked gate, and that the portion of the driveway outside the gate was still considered to be within the wildlife refuge.

The supervisor was generous enough to not issue a citation nor to levy a fine, and seemed interested to see that the ODNR website shows the unit to be the "Urbana Wildlife Area", with the word "refuge" appearing only once in the descriptive text, and with no mention being made anywhere of there being no public access to the unit beyond the gate.