By Nancy Allen
More than 80 acres of county-owned farmland recently was planted in filter strips to help clean up Grand Lake and the tributaries that feed into it.
Members of the Lake Improvement Association (LIA) learned of the planting during their meeting Saturday at the Celina Moose Lodge.
The LIA is a nonprofit group working to improve the water quality in creeks and streams in the Grand Lake Watershed and in the lake those streams feed into.
Grass and/or tree covered filter strips are planted along water bodies to keep soil runoff and attached nutrients from fouling the water. State and federal programs pay landowners to take agriculture land out of production and plant it in filter strips as a way to improve water quality.
LIA President Bill Ringo said 17 acres of county-owned land along one side of Beaver Creek south of Montezuma and east of the Lakefield Airport runway were planted in filter strips recently. Some land nearby along Montezuma Road also was planted in filter strips, Ringo said. The area of the plantings is where Beaver Creek flows into Grand Lake. Ringo said another 70 acres of county-owned farmland along state Route 29 west of Celina also was planted to help keep the local waters clean.
Along with the state and federal payments, the Lake Restoration Committee and Mercer County Pheasants Forever group both recently sweetened the pot by agreeing to pay landowners additional one-time incentive payments for filter strip planting.
Also at the meeting, LRC member Tom Rampe reported he has started work on an Ohio EPA 319 grant application to request funds to help fix old and ailing septic systems in Mercer County. The county recently submitted a Home Sewage Treatment System plan to Ohio EPA officials, which must be approved before the county can apply for the 319 funds.
Failing septic tanks that leak human waste into lake tributaries is one of the contributors to poor water quality.
Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton reported that West Bank Park near Celina has reopened. Morton said for an earlier story that the park had been shut primarily to reduce park maintenance costs and to curtail criminal sexual activity reported at the park. The park was closed just before Christmas.
The park has a circle drive that loops back around to a small parking lot, has two shelter houses, cooking grills, picnic tables and a fishing pier along the lake's shore.