Portage Park District Aquires More Land
Birds chirping, wind rustling in the trees, and the low chatter of masked people enjoying their hike fill the senses. The park trails have become a refuge for some as the virus drones on for another year and outdoor spaces seem like the safest way to escape stale, wintry dust-laden homes. As spring weather begins to warm dormant earth, the Portage Park District is embarking on a fresh project.
The district will use $1.14 million from Clean Ohio Greenspace Grants to fund the initial acquisition and restoration of the 325 acre site in Hiram Township. The district also relied on $325,000 in funds from a voter-approved levy that provides funding for the park district, $1,000 from Portage Park District Foundation and $1,000 in volunteer labor from Hiram College. Western Reserve Land Conservancy also holds a conservation easement on the property, a type of protection available to private conservationist groups, to ensure the land is sustained far in the future.
And without conservation-minded landowners and siblings, Jane Hill and Stan Carlisle who sold the property for $75,000 below appraised value, the acquisition may not have been possible. The siblings look back on their memories of their family’s land fondly, remembering their father’s dedication to the property and to the community. The property, where the family hosted bonfires and wintry sleigh rides, was like a playground for the siblings. In that community oriented fashion, the siblings hope the property can continue to bring people together through the park district’s dedication to reviving the land.
Serving the whole county
Andrea Metzler, a public engagement manager for Portage Park District says they’re pleased to be able to grow in that area. “It’s good for the community, it’s good for that particular area. We don’t have a ton of acreage up there, so we like to be as present as we can in all the communities in Portage County, so as we grow, we’re looking to acquire land that’s going to make an impact for the folks in those communities.” said Metzler.
Metzler credits the levy voters approved in 2014 with providing the funds to help the 30-year old park district continue to grow. The plan, for now, is to restore the land by planting native trees and other greenery to help foster long-term sustainability, but beyond the first phase, they hope to get community input to assess the wants and wishes for the future of the park. Metzler says an acquisition of this size is big for the district. Compared to entities like Summit Metro Parks who are celebrating their 100th year this year, the Portage Park District is a much smaller entity, but Metzler says the district looks forward to their continued growth and service to the Portage County area.
“The amount of work and growth that we’ve had just in this last seven years since that levee is really important to the community and we’re going to keep growing and keep looking to the community for their input and their advice on things they’d like to see and we’re just really excited to be able to get to do this work.”