Preservation of 5,522 acres in 2012 included local farm, Trumbull County MetroParks

The Western Reserve Land Conservancy preserved 5,522 acres in 2012, including  Huntley Quarry on Kelly’s Island. Electronic image courtesy of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

The Western Reserve Land Conservancy preserved 5,522 acres in 2012, including Huntley Quarry on Kellys Island in Erie County. Electronic image courtesy of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

Working with park systems, communities, farmers and other landowners, the nonprofit Western Reserve Land Conservancy permanently preserved another 5,522 acres in 2012, helped create a record number of county land banks and expanded its footprint with two mergers.

In addition, the Land Conservancy moved into its new Moreland Hills home in 2012.

It was the second-largest preserved acreage total in the Land Conservancy’s seven-year history, just two acres short of the record figure posted in 2011.  The Land Conservancy, which permanently protects natural lands, working farmlands, urban lands and coastal lands in northern Ohio, has now preserved a total of 474 properties and 34,441 acres in the region.

“This was perhaps our biggest year ever when we take into account everything we were able to accomplish as an organization – the preservation of more than 5,500 acres of land, the amazing work Jim Rokakis and our Thriving Communities Institute has done in Ohio’s urban areas, mergers with two more outstanding land trusts in Lake and Columbiana counties and the opening of our new economically and environmentally responsible home,” said Rich Cochran, the Land Conservancy’s president and chief executive officer.

Developments in 2012

• The Land Conservancy helped Lake Metroparks preserve an approximately two-mile stretch of Lake Erie beaches and bluffs in Lake County for expansion of Lake Erie Bluffs Park in Perry Township.  The park system’s acquisition of a 350-acre tract from the Land Conservancy will create one of the longest sections of publicly accessible shoreline in Ohio, where 85 percent of all Lake Erie coastal property is privately owned.  The acquisition links the existing 140-acre park to a third parcel the park system expects to acquire. Cochran said Lake Erie Bluffs is a “nationally significant” preserve that will attract visitors and benefit the local economy.

• In Erie County, the Land Conservancy, in cooperation with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, helped preserve two Kelleys Island parcels containing globally imperiled Great Lakes Alvar Ecosystem and a rare mature red cedar forest.  The Land Conservancy worked with the Kelleys Island Park District Recreation Board to help the village acquire the 59-acre Huntley-Beatty Preserve and the 18.5-acre Quinn Preserve.  About one-third of Kelleys Island is now permanently protected from development.

• In Trumbull County, the Land Conservancy played a key role in a project that increased the total acreage in the Trumbull County MetroParks system by 40 percent.  The Land Conservancy secured funding for the purchase of a 458-acre parcel in northern Trumbull County and arranged for its transfer to the park system. The property, which is in Bloomfield Township and adjacent to the state’s Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area, contains more than three linear miles of tributaries to the State Scenic Grand River and includes a portion of the Western Reserve Greenway.

• In Hudson,  the Western Reserve Land Conservancy  partnered with Metro Parks, Serving Summit County and the city of Hudson to permanently preserve 293 acres. The Brandywine Creek Wetlands, part of the former Cuyahoga County Youth Development Center property, will become a county park.

• In Portage County, the Land Conservancy partnered with the city of Streetsboro to protect a 116-acre parcel, one containing environmentally sensitive wetlands. The property, which was owned by Verna M. Beck, is in a flood-prone area off state Route 303. The city intends to turn it into a passive park with hiking trails.

• In Trumbull County, the Land Conservancy worked with the Miller family on conservation easements that will preserve 2,702 acres of very productive farmland on 14 separate blocks of property. Scott Hill, the Land Conservancy’s eastern field director, said the Millers are “widely respected members of the farming community not only in Ohio but across the country.” The recording of the Miller easements means that if you drive east on state Route 87 from state Route 11 you will pass massive blocks of farmland on both sides of the road that are permanently protected – and will be for generations to come.  It was the second-largest conservation project ever completed by the Land Conservancy, topped only by a 3,100-acre preservation agreement in 2011.

• The Land Conservancy also helped permanently protect the remaining 50 acres of a Stark County farm that has been in the family since the 1850s.  The family donated a conservation easement on the heavily wooded property, which is along state Route 21 near Canal Fulton.

• In the western part of its service area, the Land Conservancy worked with landowner Maple Lawn Farm to preserve 200 acres south central Huron County. The property was permanently preserved through the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program. Maple Lawn Farm, owned by the Seidel family, is a multi-generational family farm that produces various grain row crops, hogs and beef cattle. The protected property, which is in the Vermilion River watershed, includes approximately 150 acres of active agricultural land and related infrastructure and 25 acres of woodland. The Seidel family is active in the Huron County community. In 2012, the farm hosted a visit by U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs.

• The Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute, headed by Jim Rokakis, increased the number of county land banks in Ohio to 15 and working with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and local officials to secure more than $120 million in funding for the demolition of vacant and abandoned homes. Last year, seven counties – Lorain, Lake, Portage, Muskingum, Butler, Stark and Summit – established land banks, joining the ranks of those already in place in Lucas, Erie, Cuyahoga, Trumbull, Mahoning, Hamilton, Montgomery and Franklin counties.

• In November, more than 200 people attended the second Ohio Land Bank Conference, which was co-hosted by Thriving Communities and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.

• In 2012, Thriving Communities also started working with nationally known researchers, Case Western Reserve University’s Center on Urban Poverty and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank on a study that is expected to statistically prove the link between demolition and a reduction in subsequent foreclosures.

• In Summit County, efforts by the Land Conservancy to expand an urban greenway in Akron received a major boost from the state.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources approved grants totaling $26,880 for the purchase of a 2.5-acre property along Adam’s Run, which is in southeast Akron.  The award will cover the cost of purchasing the property.  The Land Conservancy worked with Lockheed Martin Corp. to help create Haley’s Run, a greenway that connects to Adam’s Run just south of the Goodyear test track.  The Land Conservancy is working with local partners to extend the greenway to the Little Cuyahoga River and then to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

• Two local organizations that have been preserving land in northern Ohio for more than two decades have merged with the Land Conservancy. The Waite Hill Land Conservancy, which owns 297 acres in that Lake County village, and the Little Beaver Creek Land Foundation, which holds or co-holds easements on 186 acres in Columbiana County, have joined forces with the Land Conservancy. The mergers became effective Jan. 1.   The merger with LBCLF expands the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s service footprint to 15 counties and adds a new field office in Lisbon.

Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which was formed in 2006, is the result of the mergers of 13 separate local land trusts in northern Ohio. It is one of the top 10 land trusts in the nation, according to the Land Trust Alliance.  The Land Conservancy is headquartered in Moreland Hills and has field offices in Cleveland, Akron, Oberlin, Medina, Orwell, Painesville, Lisbon and Orrville.

The Western Reserve Land Conservancy preserved 5,522 acres in 2012, including shoreline along Lake Erie Bluffs Park. Electronic image courtesy of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

In 2012, the Land Conservancy helped Lake Metroparks preserve an approximately two-mile stretch of Lake Erie beaches and bluffs in Lake County for expansion of Lake Erie Bluffs Park in Perry Township. Electronic image courtesy of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

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