Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
By Shelley Grieshop
County buys lake lots for preservation
  MONTEZUMA - The county is buying more than 42 acres of land near Windy Point to protect existing habitat, promote wetlands and prevent development near Grand Lake.
The cost to Mercer County for the Windy Point Nature Park acquisition - $362,650 - will be reimbursed through Clean Ohio Funds.
"It's a reimbursable grant," explained Jared Ebbing, director of the county's community development office. "We have to show the expenditure and then request the funds. No county dollars are actually going toward the project other than the advancement of funds for that 30-day period while the funds are being sent."
County commissioners on Tuesday approved the Clean Ohio Fund contract.
The local Lake Restoration Commission has vowed to provide approximately $127,000 in matching funds to meet the total project cost of $490,068.
The Franklin Township project includes the land purchase, planning and implementation work, site improvements, permits, advertising and legal tasks, and contingencies.
Two properties are being purchased: Pear Investments owns the 32.7669 acres at 6929 state Route 219, and Ronald and Marlene Tuente own the 9.79 acres at 0 Lagoon Drive.
The properties are bordered on the north by Ohio Department of Natural Resources land; to the east by an unnamed stream and Grand Lake; and to the south by private businesses.
Officials intend to restore more than 22 acres to its natural form by seeding native grasses and trees.
"Most of the ground has hydric soils, which means if left alone, it will revert back to a natural wetlands," Ebbing said.
The project goal is to restore water quality, natural stream channels and functioning flood plains.
"The site would be managed for wildlife habitat, wetland preservation and as a passive recreational area," according to the agreement with Clean Ohio.
No buildings, structures or improvements of any kind shall be erected on the site and no residential, commercial or industrial use will be permitted, the contract states.
Mercer County will own and maintain the property with assistance from the LRC and ODNR Division of Wildlife, officials said.
"After it is restored, there shouldn't be much upkeep to it," Ebbing said, adding officials will let "nature take its course."
Plans are to add a green trail and a small gravel parking area with signage. The work is expected to be completed by Oct. 30. The property will open to the public during daylight hours, seven days per week, 365 days per year, and may in the future be linked with area walking paths.
Ebbing said the Windy Point project is part of several endeavors - including the nearby Prairie Creek Treatment Train - to ultimately improve Grand Lake's water quality.
"This is being done as a series of projects that are encouraging the natural restoration of land to take a more prominent role in the health of the lake," Ebbing said.
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