Hancock Park District may acquire wooded property
Findlay, OH - The Hancock Park District board approved a resolution Wednesday to "own and manage" nearly 64 acres of mainly forest to be used as a nature preserve in conjunction with Black Swamp Conservancy.
The Perrysburg-based organization has about 11,400 acres in conservation easements throughout 16 counties in northwestern Ohio. The group is seeking a state Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation grant application which would cover 75 percent of the cost. If approved, the grant would provide the funds to purchase the property from Arthur Hershey, as the group has negotiated a reduced price for the land. The land is along about a mile of the Blanchard River, about three miles south of Mount Blanchard, on Hancock County 17.
The amount of the grant and the sale price will not be released until the application is filed, said Rob Krain, conservation director. He said the negotiated sale price is "below market value."
The board's special meeting Wednesday morning was necessary because the conservancy faces an Oct. 1 application deadline, according to information from park district Director Gary Pruitt.
The conservancy group would deed the property to the park district, Pruitt said.
"The natural area would be subject to a conservation easement held by the Black Swamp Conservancy," according to the notes. So no construction would be done on the property, which would have a nature trail.
A small house, with an enclosed back porch, and a garage are on the land. The house could be used as a field office for the park district, shelter and bunk house for program participants, a nature center for school groups and others, a retreat center for staff programs and a rental building for groups, Pruitt said.
"The garage is in decent shape," he said. "It would provide ample storage and it has a loft. The garage also includes an attached room which could serve as additional storage, or as a field office or workshop."
Pruitt said the area would be used for "preservation first and foremost" and for public uses such as primitive hiking on a trail which follows the river. It would be used for environmental education and research, too.
The river within the area includes a "deep pool with large fish jumping and a shallow section that provides a natural stone bridge from one side of the river to another or an opportunity to get close to the river for observation and enjoyment."
The area has a "variety of wildlife and a wilderness-like hiking experience in a rural setting that offers relative isolation and solitude," Pruitt said.
Park district personnel and volunteers would maintain the area, including invasive plant removal, trail construction, removal of trees from the river and any "hazardous trees that threaten people and property."
Day-to-day, on-site personnel will not be necessary, Pruitt said, as the area is low maintenance.
"However, periodic inspections and projects by park district staff and volunteers, patrol and enforcement by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department, and use by a variety of individuals and groups would be expected, thus resulting in year-round use of what could be the Hancock Park District's next nature preserve," Pruitt said.
Board members favored the purchase.
"It looks like one of those opportunities which sometimes come your way," board chairperson Gary Hirschfeld said.
"I'm for doing it," board vice chairman Scott Younger said. "We would pick up significant acreage, but we have a levy renewal not far off."
Younger suggested looking at partnerships, possibly with the University of Findlay and Riverdale schools, to utilize the site.
Pruitt said the property would be used for hiking and fishing. It has "potential" for hunting, but the park district would want to "maintain the wilderness feel" for outdoor education programs. Eagle Scout candidates could also assist with trail and property maintenance, he said.
Vice chairperson Gwen Kuenzli asked about the property maintenance.
Pruitt said the operation and maintenance cost could be absorbed by the park district.
Since the property would be maintain as it exists, there would not be any impact on flooding in the area, he said.
"It's a unique parcel," Pruitt said, "and we want to have people experience it."
The board also held an executive session to discuss the purchase of additional property for public use, but took no action.
Jim Maurer: 419-427-8420, Send an e-mail to Jim Maurer