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Broken Timber: A Place For Everybody, Not Just Kids

By Staff | Apr 8, 2009

Editor’s Note: This is the third of four articles on Broken Timber Outdoor Education Center in Hannibal.

A member of Team Monroe, Mike Willis works as a watch commander at the Northern Correctional Facility He also teaches various classes at the correctional facility.

Willis’ goal is to get children involved. “They will always be able to enjoy the outdoors,” he said. “We want to promote good ethics and sportsmanship.”

Due to time restraints, Broken Timber Outdoor Education Center is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 to 9 p.m. and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Willis hopes to get more seniors involved so hours and other days of the week can be expanded.

The cost to become an adult member at Broken Timber Outdoor Education Center is $20 ($10 goes to the organization and $10 toward the annual banquet). Kids, ages 8-17, are free, but must have an adult sponsor member. Membership includes access to the center and discounts on seminars and classes.

Teaching kids anything about the outdoors has been a passion for years for Willis. That passion to “pass it on” developed into the creation of Broken Timber, which opened last July near Hannibal.

The outdoor center currently features several exciting “learning and doing” rooms that include fly tying, fishing lure and lead sinker making, trapping, animal and fish identification, taxidermy, live bait for fishing, video and book library and conference classrooms. Many other educational rooms and activities will be added later.

Willis said he got the idea to provide instruction on a larger scale for more people, after helping neighborhood kids and friends learn how to tie flies and go fishing. “I coached athletics for 30 years, wrestling and baseball, things my kids were involved in. I feel if you show a kid something, they appreciate it. I’ve tied flies for years. It’s something I like to do, and people have always asked me for advice, or want me to tell them how to tie flies. I share tips with everybody. So this is something I like to do.”

Willis started out offering fly tying “classes” for kids in area churches in nearby Clarington and Hannibal. He and some friends then took kids fishing. They started the Broken Timber Junior Fisherman group in 2006.

Willis wanted to do more, though. He wanted to offer more programs. That required more help and money to provide free fishing equipment for youths. Early on, a town clerk from Hannibal, Sara Jacobs, who also loved the outdoors, helped Willis organize the non-profit group.

A short time later, Jacobs was diagnosed with cancer and died in June 2007, about a year before Broken Timber held its open house for the education center. A plaque in memory of Jacobs, hangs in the library of the new facility.

Willis has since leaned on many other dedicated outdoors men and women to get the education center, and its programs, up and running. The center currently has seven certified Ohio Division of Natural Resources Passport to Fishing instructors and seven ODNR certified hunting and trapping education instructors. Also, many other local fisherman, hunters and trappers are assisting with running programs at Broken Timber.

The center relies on hunting and trapping chairman Mark Romick and Roy Thomas, fishing, to lead the educational programs. The hunting instructors are: Cory Willis, Keith Jones, Len Truchan, Jerry West, Toby Willis, Eric Ritchie and Romick. The fishing instructors are: Thomas, Ritchie, Billy Thomas, Jim McGuire, Doug Duvall, Cory Willis and Mike Willis.

Broken Timber, which is a non-profit 501C organization, has four members of the board of directors: Willis, Mark Landefeld, Bill Thompson and Todd Fry.

“We have some good people here. We want the kids to be around people with good ethics and that are energetic about what we’re doing,” said Willis.

“We want to help our future and keep kids in programs like this. We need to keep kids in the outdoors, encourage them to be outdoors and participate in sporting events,” added Willis.

The education center also provides free programs and workshops for area school districts in Ohio and West Virginia.

In the future, Willis hopes to sponsor fishing seminars and tournaments, cooking seminars, an outdoor sports show, archery and shooting tournaments and provide a hunter education mobile unit. A ‘women in the outdoors’ group may also be forming at the facility, as well as other outdoor organizations. A wetlands area behind the building will also be used as a trapping demonstration area.