Metroparks board OKs funds for new park in Jerusalem Twp.
The newest and largest Metropark in the Toledo area is expected to open in Jerusalem Township in three to five years, if the park system can maintain its “ambitious” development schedule.
The park, located on the current Howard Farms property, will be unlike any other Metropark, Tim Schetter, Ph.D., director of natural resources for the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, said last week. “This is unique to the Metroparks in that there are coastal aspects to it and it will be largely a wetlands’ restoration project.”
The property—nearly 1,000 acres—is located just south of Reno Beach and west of Metzger Marsh. It will create a nearly eight-mile continuous stretch of public lands that includes Metzger Marsh, Ottawa Wildlife Refuge, Crane Creek State Park and Magee Marsh. Throw in Maumee Bay State Park and Cedar Point Wildlife Refuge to the west and 11,687 acres of unique wetlands are or will be preserved for waterfowl habitat and our enjoyment.
The land, currently a working farm, was purchased with two partners in 2008 for $6 million. Dr. Schetter said the Ohio Division of Wildlife contributed $3 million; the Clean Ohio Fund $1.8 million and the Metroparks’ land acquisition fund $1.2 million. This is the single largest purchase in Metroparks’ history both in acreage and cost. Naturally, the partnership came with caveats. Two of them are that some portion must be open to hunting and no more than 20 percent of the land can be developed into buildings and trails.
The Metroparks’ board voted at its April board meeting to retain Smith Group/JJR from Ann Arbor for $52,375 to collaborate with Ducks Unlimited to develop a park plan.
The resolution calls for the two firms to “create habitat enhancements that also create opportunities for fishing, wildlife viewing, small craft boating, hunting, interpretive messaging and research.”
Schetter anticipates that Cedar Creek, which is currently pumped dry on the property to allow for farming, will be restored and meander two and half miles through the park before connecting with Ward’s Canal and empty into Lake Erie. A lot of the vegetation common to wetlands will spring up naturally, once water is reintroduced.
“The seeds are in the soil and you have to create the right conditions for them to out-compete other seeds,” said Roy Kroll, manager of conservation programs at Ducks Unlimited in Ann Arbor. “It’s not uncommon for a corn field to go to cattails in one year…We will also create mud flats that, in the spring, and sometimes the fall, will harbor shore birds.”
Ducks Unlimited is a national organization whose mission is to create and preserve habitat for North American waterfowl. Habitat will also be created for turtles, snakes and other marsh denizens.
Schetter envisions the public will be able to use the new park for hiking, bird watching, hunting, canoeing and kayaking. The creek and canal should be deep and wide enough for small watercraft and, although there is no lake shoreline, access to Lake Erie can be had via Ward’s Canal, the waterway that separates the property from Metzger Marsh. Schetter envisions working with federal and state officials to provide access to Metzger’s and the marshes and refuges east of it.
There will be few structures on the land, a restroom facility for sure, and some interpretative message boards.
Public hearings will be held starting as early as next month to determine what you want to see at the park. That information will be taken into consideration before plans are drafted. Schetter anticipates plans to be finalized by the end of this year. Schetter said the preliminary estimate for restoration is $4 million. Metroparks and the other partners are looking for grant opportunities to fund the project.
The new park could be open to the public in three to five years if this “ambitious” schedule doesn’t hit any snags, Schetter said. A name has not been chosen.
“This may be one of the largest farmland-to-coastal wetland restorations in many decades and the chance to restore the natural stream channel is an exciting and rare opportunity,” Kroll said.