TOLEDO — The board of park commissioners, governing body of Metroparks of the Toledo Area, voted March 26 to purchase six parcels of land totaling 959 acres near the Lake Erie shore in Jerusalem Township for $6 million.
The largest and most costly land acquisition in Metroparks 80-year history will preserve nearly 1,000 acres of land in the Lake Erie coastal zone and be the first step toward restoring wetlands.
Howard Farms. The property, known as Howard Farms, is located on state Route 2, immediately west of the
Currently farmland, the property lies within the Lake Erie Coastal Zone, one of the region’s most significant ecological areas. Just 5 percent of the original coastal wetlands remain intact on the Lake Erie shore.
“The coastal zone near Lake Erie was one of the highest priorities when the voters approved Metroparks land acquisition levy in 2003,” said Jim Spengler, director-secretary of the park district.
“The Lake Erie marshes; the Oak Openings region; and the Maumee River, Ottawa River and Swan Creek corridors are Lucas County’s most important natural assets.”
Acreage. The addition of Howard Farms will bring the park district’s total land holdings to more than 10,500 acres. The purchase is contingent on state grant funding that will pay for the majority of the acquisition.
Funding sources are:
• $3 million from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.
• $1.8 million from the Ohio Public Works Commission through a Clean Ohio Fund grant awarded in 2006.
• $10,000 from Ducks Unlimited, an international conservation organization.
• The balance, $1.2 million, will come from Metroparks 0.3 mill land acquisition levy.
According to terms of the purchase agreement, the seller, John Gradel and Sons Farms, Inc., will have the right to continue farming the land for nine years.
The agreement also grants Metroparks the right of first refusal to purchase an additional 60 contiguous acres.
Usage. According to terms of the grant agreement with the Clean Ohio Fund, 80 percent of the land will be used perpetually for conservation purposes and no more than 20 percent for recreational purposes, such as facilities, trails and parking.
Also, under the agreement for the State Wildlife Grant, the Ohio Division of Wildlife will establish a public hunting program on a portion of the property.
The region, which includes the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
and Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area, is a major feeding, nesting and resting area for migrating birds.
It is frequently listed among premier destinations for bird watching in North America and is part of a region designated as the Detroit River and Western Lake Erie International Wildlife Refuge.
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