Black Swamp Conservancy has preserved 61 acres along the Sandusky River by purchasing its new Water's Edge Preserve.
South of Fremont and just north of Sandusky County Park District's Wolf Creek Park, the area was purchased in April and reforestation began last weekend.
"We purchased the property from a farm family we've been doing a lot of agricultural preservation work with," said Rob Krain, the conservancy's executive director.
So far there are 5 acres of trees and 6 acres of prairie, as well as a riparian area along a half-mile of the river and a small river island.
"It's just a really important area for us to be doing this sort of work," he said. "We are just to the north of Wolf Creek Park. This is kind of a key property in protecting a corridor for wildlife habitat and recreation." The preserve is to be established, in part, in tribute to the Sandusky Seneca tribe, which once inhabited land along the Sandusky River, the conservancy said in a news release.
"The 1785 Treaty of Greenville between the U.S. and the Native American tribes set aside the land of northwest Ohio for the Native American peoples 'as long as the woods grow and waters run,'" it said.
Until now, the land has been farmed, and last weekend's tree-planting day was the first work completed.
"It was phenomenal," Krain said. "We had about 50 people who showed up to help. We got over 2,000 trees in the ground.
"We do have about another 40 acres or so that needs to be reforested so we'll be planning another day this fall," he said.
The preserve eventually is to be open to the public as an educational resource for local schools and universities, in addition to conservancy-led programming. Later, the property is to be opened up to limited public access for passive recreation such as hiking, picnicking and fishing.
"The property was almost entirely cropland when we bought it and we want to get the vegetation established before we open it for public access," Krain said.
The project also will create watershed benefits by establishing a buffer between the river and surrounding fields, he said.
Although Krain said it's usual for the conservancy to look for land to purchase, the organization owns two other properties.
"This is kind of unique," he said. "Most of what we do is conservation easements."
In addition to Water's Edge, the conservancy owns Forrest Woods Nature Preserve in Paulding County.
"It's really one of the best remnants of the Great Black Swamp, if not the best," he said.
The 292-acre preserve is home to more than 30 rare, threatened and endangered species of plants and animals, and is open to the public only by permit.
The conservancy's Lake Erie Islands chapter owns a 7-acre nature preserve called the Jane Coates Wildflower Trail on Put-in-Bay. The property is an example of the unique forest habitat found on the Lake Erie islands.
Not owned by the conservancy, but another newly protected area - Hershey Riparian Woods - is in the southeast corner of Hancock County along both sides of the Blanchard River.
Using funds from the state Clean Ohio program, the conservancy assisted Hancock County Park District with the purchase of the 64 acres. With plans to open the area for public access, the park district has granted the conservancy a conservation easement protecting the land from future development. It is home to six rare species, including two which are federally endangered, and 1 1/2 miles of natural river corridor.Other protected public lands include 12.9 acres at the 577 Foundation, Perrysburg; 17.8 acres at South Shore Park Wetlands, Oregon; 248 acres at the Toledo Metroparks' Pearson Metropark Wetlands, Oregon; 14.7 acres of Port Clinton Lakefront Preserve, Port Clinton; 63 acres at Cedar Meadow Preserve, Catawba Island; 7.8 acres at Middle Bass Island East Point Preserve, Middle Bass Island; and 190 acres at Meadowbrook Marsh Preserve, Marblehead Peninsula.
The Perrysburg-based conservancy is dedicated to preserving farmland and natural areas in northwest Ohio from development. Since 1993, it has protected almost 13,000 acres.
For more information on the preserve or the conservancy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (419) 872-5263.