Last of Ohio’s state nurseries to close

SALEM, Ohio — The last of Ohio’s state-run nurseries — a long-standing source for millions of tree seedlings that rebuilt Ohio forests — is set to close.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources earlier this month proposed closing the Marietta State Nursery, citing increased costs coupled with a steep decrease in seedling sales over the past few years.

The department says resources will be redirected toward programs that return a greater benefit to Ohioans, including service forestry, urban forestry, fire and state forest programs.

Planned

The proposal has been submitted to the Department of Administrative Services and is pending review and approval. If approved, the nursery would close Nov. 8, according to Andy Ware, assistant chief of the state’s division of forestry.

“Over an extended period of time, despite constant promotional and administrative support, seedling sales have continued to decline,” Ware said.

Ware said annual sales have steadily dropped from 6 million trees in 1997, to nearly 4 million in 2003, to this year’s low of less than 1.5 million seedlings.

Last year, the nursery lost approximately $250,000, according to one state staffer.

The sales decline proved costly in other ways, too, pushing the state out of eligibility for federal cost-share dollars that helped keep seedlings affordable, according to Ware.

The state made cuts over time to deal with declining sales, including closing the Green Springs State Nursery in 1984 and the Zanesville State Nursery in 2003.

The Marietta site was the last state-run nursery operating in the Buckeye State. Its closure will put the division of forestry completely out of the seedling nursery business.

“It’s a tough day for us with this proposal,” Ware said.

History

The Marietta State Nursery began operations in 1925 as a provider of seedlings for reforesting land purchased as part of the state forest system.

Ware said “some pretty far-sighted folks” reacted at that time to former President Teddy Roosevelt’s pleas to Americans to avoid a timber famine — a potential shortage of lumber to build homes and industry — and reforested certain parts of the country.

At the time, Ohio was only about 10 percent forested, Ware said.

For more than 80 years, the nursery supported tree planting on state forests and private lands, giving landowners and state foresters easy access to some 70 varieties of affordable seedlings, from dogwoods and buckeyes to pines, maples and oaks.

In fact, Ware said the state nurseries have provided some half a billion seedlings since the 1920s — enough to cover 1 million acres of ground, slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Today, Ohio is more than 30 percent forested, according to the state.
The seedlings have also been used for wildlife habitat development, erosion control and windbreaks, and other conservation projects.

Losses

“The question is, in today’s market, should the state be producing seedlings,” Ware said. “It was a tough decision, but no, we shouldn’t be.”

The closure will affect eight permanent and approximately 20 seasonal employees. The state is “helping them find decent jobs,” according to Ware.

He said surrounding states have state nurseries still in operation, and the state is working on formal arrangements with them to provide Ohio landowners and foresters a convenient supply of seedlings.

“We have many people who have a long-term relationship with us buying seedlings. We certainly share in their disappointment” in the closure, Ware said.

Ware said it’s “highly unlikely” the Department of Administrative Services would deny the division of forestry’s closure proposal.

In addition, the Department of Natural Resources will also be forced to cut an additional $2.99 million from the budget to comply with Gov. Ted Strickland’s $540 million statewide budget reduction for 2009.

About the Author

Former staff reporter Andrea Zippay wrote for Farm and Dairy from 2001 to 2009. More Stories by Andrea Zippay

One Comment

  1. Pat Downey says:

    This story of the last State nursery closing is unbelivable .I don’t buy the story that they have tried to get the word out either Inot heard one mention in recent years about replanting trees on Ohio soil all one hears or sees is the sound of chain saws and fallen trees mostly from people who are either elderly or don’t want to be bothered with leaves . I have called the State many times over the past several years over trying to get the ODNR to purchase more public hunting land as Ohio is the third worst in the U.S for such land provides natural beauty and food and cover . Many animals were brought back from the brink of extinction such as the whitetail deer , wild tukey , black bear , bald eagle and others . The stae of Ohio is loosing its farm land faster than any other state in the U.S.percentage wise. This loss of land base and the refusal to use our licence fees to purchase woodland will and has already cost the Stae moneyand beatiful land for all to enjoy . They put their fun ds or our funds into a general fund instead of earmarking them .This is wrong and they are hurting themselves and us.Any land that isn’t protected will be developed whether neceassary or not because we in Mahoning County have plenty of space for lease or sale yet retail commercial and resedential sprawl continue in all directions and townships . Its sinful really . Now to hear this is really upsetting because the foresters that cut down our trees despite our not wanting them too -don’t even replace what was cut. “He said ‘surrounding states have state nurseries still in operation, and the state is working on formal arrangements with them to provide Ohio landowners and foresters a convenient supply of seedlings.’” This is going to send funds to other states – real smart move. As far as the state trying to promote tree planting – that is a bold faced lie -they haven’t been interested and they are very rude to evironmental minde hunters and conservationalists. Your rarely even see anyone planting a white oak, walnut or hickory that are native and benifit a lot of wildlife.People if they plant at all plant foreign garbage trees like pears or crap that looks like it is from Bikini bottom . No the state has failed to get the word out through compltete apathy.Our forest being over 30% is another lie . I saw the mills in Holmes county taking in truck load after truck load of logs . This was in 2007. How can you have a green certified forest as the govenor claims when you don’t even have a nursurey to replace the trees they have no buisness cutting on state land? What a joke.The so called green movement itself never mentions planting trees only alternate fuels which we forever discuss but rarely implement.Teddy Roosevelt was a naturalist and hunter going up against the forefathers of the corrupt wealthy rulers today . He sold them on the forest for wood principle because they only spoke and understood greed.With a MA in History its hard to fool me on that one . But even the robber barons of that day had the brains to replace what they illeagally cut.We are headed for deep trouble. Another joke is Ohio’s urban forests -they don’t exist drive around and see how many stumps you see and how many new trees that are native being planted.

Leave a Comment

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.

eNewsletter

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Services

Recent News