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Conservation stories featuring the Land Conservancy & our partners
February 21, 2014
for demolition funding
The head of the nonprofit organization responsible for securing more than $182 million in demolition funding for Ohio cities is applauding Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald’s proposal to issue $50 million in bonds to raze homes in Cleveland and its suburbs.
Jim Rokakis, director of Thriving Communities Institute and a nationally recognized expert on the foreclosure crisis, said he is pleased Cuyahoga County may be adding to the demolition funds already allocated by the federal government, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the City of Cleveland and others. FitzGerald’s bond issue proposal for Cuyahoga County would still need the approval of County Council.(Read the Plain Dealer's commentary on the speech here.)
FitzGerald made the proposal at his State of the County address on Wednesday.
“While vacant properties are especially troubling—and devastating to inner city neighborhoods—their impact is felt by property owners all over Cuyahoga County who are paying millions more in property taxes to cover the losses to the City of Cleveland tax base, “ Rokakis said.
February 13, 2014
Study says demolition
helps curb Cleveland
mortgage foreclosure rates
Cleveland neighborhoods in which blighted homes are razed generally have lower mortgage foreclosure rates, according to a new study of the impact of demolition in the city and inner-ring suburbs over a four-year period. The study also concluded that residential property values “can be hedged by demolition activity across Cleveland submarkets.” The study area was comprised of four submarkets, ranging from high functioning to extremely weak. Findings indicated that stronger neighborhoods realize the largest home-equity benefits. The study, which was conducted by the Griswold Consulting Group at the request of Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute and funded in part by Cleveland City Council, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Eva L. and Joseph M. Bruening Foundation and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, looked at the effect that residential demolition had on real estate equity and mortgage-foreclosure rates in Cleveland and several inner-ring suburbs between 2009 and 2013. Other sponsors include land banks in Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Stark, Summit and Trumbull counties.
January 23, 2014
Ohio Plan seeks $200 million
in Chase settlement
A broad coalition of civic organizations and public officials wants Ohio to receive $200 million in funds from the $13 billion settlement of mortgage-fraud claims brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against JPMorgan Chase.The Ohio Plan, the coalition’s proposal for the settlement funds, calls for the money to go toward the razing of dilapidated properties throughout the state, programs to prevent home foreclosure and abandonment, the renovation of blighted homes and the re-purposing of vacant parcels resulting from demolition.
January 15, 2014
Land Conservancy preserved
more than 4,000 acres in 2013
The Land Conservancy permanently preserved another 51 properties and more than 4,000 acres in 2013, marking one of the organization’s best years ever.The preserved property total was only one short of the Land Conservancy’s high-water mark in 2011, while the 4,011 acres permanently protected in 2013 represented the organization’s fourth-best year behind 2012 (5,525 acres), 2011 (5,524) and 2007 (5,249). In addition, the Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute, which is helping revitalize urban centers throughout Ohio, assisted in the formation of new land banks in Ashtabula and Richland counties in 2013.
January 6, 2014
Four are named to
Land Conservancy board
The Land Conservancy has named Tom Butch, Ruth Swetland Eppig, Nancy Rubin and Craig Owen White to its Board of Trustees. The Land Conservancy, formed in 2006 by the merger of eight local land trusts, has permanently preserved 533 properties and more than 38,000 acres in northern and eastern Ohio. In addition, its Thriving Communities Institute helps revitalize urban centers across the state.
October 22, 2013
Rokakis: Help foreclosure victims who
still live in blighted neighborhoods
A nationally recognized expert told advocates for urban revitalization that the forgotten victims of the foreclosure crisis are those homeowners who paid their mortgages and taxes on time and maintained their houses, only to see their property values plummet due to vacant and abandoned structures in the neighborhood.
Jim Rokakis, vice president of the nonprofit Western Reserve Land Conservancy and director of its Thriving Communities Institute, urged those attending the Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties conference to advocate for homeowners who remain in blighted neighborhoods but feel powerless to enact change.
Rokakis made the plea in his opening remarks at the Oct. 22-23 conference in Columbus.
October 8, 2013
Parkland acquisition adds
to Medina’s green corridor
The Medina County Park District’s acquisition of a tract off Fenn Road is the latest link in a corridor of conserved land through parts of Medina and Medina Township – one that is two miles long and covers more than 600 acres.The park district worked with the nonprofit Western Reserve Land Conservancy to acquire the 87-acre Medina Marsh, which is located south of Fenn Road and east of Pearl Road in Medina Township. The Medina Marsh parcel connects the county park district’s 41-acre Vansco Nature Preserve to Medina’s 308-acre Reagan and Huffman parks, which in turn are adjacent to Lake Medina, a former reservoir that is now a 190-acre county park.
February 20, 2013
Land Conservancy praises introduction
of bill to fund home demolition
Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which launched its Thriving Communities Institute program to address the foreclosure crisis, is applauding a bill introduced by area congressional representatives to establish a bond program to fund demolition of vacant, abandoned and tax-foreclosed homes. Land Conservancy President and CEO Rich Cochran and Thriving Communities Institute Director Jim Rokakis, a national expert on the foreclosure crisis, praised U.S. Reps. David Joyce, Marcy Kaptur and Marcia Fudge for introducing the Restore Our Neighborhoods Act, which would authorize up to $4 billion in new bond allocation for states to help fund demolition.
February 11, 2013
Land Conservancy applauds
renewal of enhanced
Congress has renewed the enhanced income tax deduction for conservation easements through 2013, and retroactive to the beginning of 2012. This incentive will help the Land Conservancy work with farmers, ranchers and other landowners to increase the pace of conservation. Landowners who act quickly to conserve their land can now enjoy these benefits, but they’re currently set to expire December 31, 2013.
Lapses in the enhanced incentive hamper our strategic conservation efforts and are frustrating for landowners. That’s why the Land Conservancy is working so hard to enact legislation to make the enhanced incentive permanent.
January 10, 2013
Land Conservancy merges with
Little Beaver Creek Land Foundation
Little Beaver Creek Land Foundation, a 20-year-old nonprofit that has worked to preserve the Little Beaver Creek watershed in Columbiana County, is merging with Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the state’s largest land trust.
Under terms of the merger, the Land Conservancy will assume responsibility for monitoring the approximately 184 acres currently protected by conservation easements held by LBCLF. In addition, LBCLF will be represented on the Land Conservancy’s board of trustees. The merger took effect Jan. 1.
“We have long been impressed with the great work done by the Little Beaver Creek Land Foundation and believe that by merging our two organizations we can dramatically advance our collective conservation mission in the region,” said Rich Cochran, president and CEO of the Land Conservancy. “We believe this merger will be a win-win for the people of Columbiana County and everyone living in this amazingly beautiful watershed.”
Jackman S. Vodrey, longtime LBCLF secretary-treasurer, said, “As one of the original founders, 20 years ago, of the Little Beaver Creek Land Foundation, I'm happy to support the members' overwhelming vote to merge with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. We have had a rewarding 20 years of growth, but to best serve the future protection of Little Beaver Creek, merging with the Land Conservancy is a giant step forward for us.”
January 3, 2013
Kathy Obert Hill joins
our leadership team
Kathy Obert Hill, who headed one of the region’s top public relations agencies for 10 years, has been appointed Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer for the nonprofit Land Conservancy. Obert Hill, who was board chair and chief executive officer of Edward Howard & Co. before negotiating the 2010 sale of the firm to Fahlgren Inc., will serve on the Land Conservancy’s executive team and oversee stakeholder engagement, including development, communications and marketing, government relations, education and events.
Rich Cochran, president and chief executive officer of the Land Conservancy, described her as “a multi-talented executive with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including strategic planning, traditional and digital marketing, branding, public relations, advertising and investor relations” and said her insights will help the organization advance its mission of preserving land and thriving places.
December 3, 2012
Streetsboro wetlands are
A 116-acre parcel containing high-quality wetlands and three rare species has been permanently preserved, thanks to a partnership between the city of Streetsboro, the Land Conservancy, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. The action means the property, located on state Route 303, can never be developed. The city owns the parcel, which was formerly owned by the Verna Beck Trust, and will manage it as a nature preserve. A state environmental covenant and a conservation easement held by the Land Conservancy permanently ban development of the property, which contains high-quality wetlands and three rare species: Water Avens, a Tiger Beetle and the largest population of the endangered high-bush cranberry found anywhere in Ohio, according to researchers from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
October 12, 2012
Land Conservancy opens new
conservation center in Moreland Hills
A generous, unsolicited gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous has enabled the Land Conservancy to build a new campus and conservation center in Moreland Hills. The facility, which relocates the Land Conservancy’s headquarters from Chesterland, officially opens this week. About two-thirds of the Land Conservancy’s 35-member staff will be based in Moreland Hills, with the rest working from field offices in Cleveland, Akron, Oberlin, Medina, Painesville, Orwell and Orrville.
Located at 3850 Chagrin River Road, the project that created the Land Conservancy’s new home was part of a six-year, multi-phase land protection project that permanently preserved about 135 acres in Moreland Hills, creating beautiful, publicly accessible hiking trails and further extending Forest Ridge Preserve. A painstakingly restored (and recycled) 5,000-square-foot historic century home and newly constructed, environmentally-responsible 11,000-square-foot addition will now house the Land Conservancy’s main office.
March 22, 2012
aim to prevent
'tsunami of blight'
Reporter Jennifer DePaul of The Bond Buyer has written a timely piece on a bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Steve LaTourette and Marcia Fudge that would provide $4 billion for states and land banks to issue demolition bonds to raze demolish vacant, foreclosed and abandoned homes across the country to prevent “a tsunami of blight.” Jim Rokakis, director of the Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute, helped craft the bill and is quoted in the story.
March 9, 2012
preserved in Erie County
Nearly 600 acres of Erie County farmland have been permanently preserved by conservation easements granted by the Wallrabenstein family to the Land Conservancy.
The easements permanently restrict development of the land.
John and Shirley Wallrabenstein preserved their 415-acre farm in Oxford Township, while John’s mother, Marge, preserved her 150-acre farm in Milan Township. The fifth-generation farms have been in the family since the 1880s and are some of the most productive in the region, according to Andy McDowell, the Land Conservancy’s western field director.
February 23, 2012
Trumbull County couple
preserves a record 3,100 acres
A Trumbull County couple has permanently preserved nearly 3,100 acres of farmland and natural areas in what is believed to be the state’s largest-ever land conservation transaction. Richard and Rhonda Thompson of Kinsman donated 23 conservation easements totaling 3,095 acres to the nonprofit Land Conservancy. A conservation easement is a legal document in which the donor voluntarily restricts future development on his or her land while retaining ownership.
More than two-thirds of the property preserved by the Thompsons – about 2,157 acres – is farmland, and the conservation easements protect more than 11 miles of stream frontage.
January 24, 2012
Parkman Township farm is
A 285-acre working dairy farm with one of the most scenic views in Geauga County has been permanently protected by an agricultural easement barring future development. The Weedon Reservation Farm located at the corner of Route 528 and Hosmer Road in Parkman Township, is now permanently preserved for agricultural use under an easement held by the Geauga County Commissioners and the Land Conservancy. This working dairy farm was preserved under the state’s Agricultural Easement Purchase Program, a statewide, farmland-protection initiative administered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
January 19, 2012
Land Conservancy helps college
add acreage to field station
Hiram College has added 152 acres of protected woodlands and wetlands property as part of its James T. Barrow Field Station east of the college’s main campus. The Land Conservancy partnered with the college to acquire the property, which was formerly owned by Isaac Yomtovian and is adjacent to the Field Station.
The land was acquired as part of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Resource Restoration Sponsorship Program. The transfer expands the Field Station property to nearly 550 acres.
December 27, 2011
Grant to help start Erie County land bank
A $40,000 grant from the Sandusky/Erie County Community Foundation and two partners – the Randolph J. and Estelle M. Dorn and Frost-Parker foundations – will be used to establish a county land bank, one designed to return vacant and foreclosed properties to productivity. The grant will help cover the cost of setting up the Erie County Land Reutilization Corporation, commonly referred to as a land bank. Jim Rokakis, director of the Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute and a national expert on urban land revitalization, has been working closely with Erie County officials over the past few months to start a land bank.
Anna J. Oertel (pictured), executive director of the Sandusky/Erie County Community Foundation, said the organization is proud to be able to partner with the Dorn and Frost-Parker foundations to establish the land bank.
December 17, 2011
Rokakis will appear on '60 Minutes' segment
Jim Rokakis, director of the Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute and a nationally recognized expert on the housing foreclosure and vacancy crisis, is scheduled to appear on the Sunday, Dec. 18 episode of “60 Minutes,” which airs locally at 7 p.m. on CBS affiliate WOIO Channel 19 (after the Cleveland Browns-Arizona Cardinals game). Jim was interviewed by “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley for the segment, which is titled, “There Goes the Neighborhood.” The report details how “recession-fueled foreclosures are causing extremely high vacancy rates in some neighborhoods, ruining the values of the occupied homes and forcing the demolitions of once valuable properties.” You can watch a preview of the segment here. This weekend, the Land Conservancy is also launching a new website dedicated to the work of Thriving Communities. Visit the new site at www.thrivingcommunitiesinstitute.org.
November 1, 2011
Land Conservancy receives
Great Lakes conservation award
The Land Conservancy and its conservation partners have been honored by the top environmental agencies of the United States and Canada for preserving land in the Grand River watershed and increasing public awareness of the ecosystem.
The Land Conservancy’s Grand River Corridor Protection Project was chosen as a 2011 Success Story by the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC) from 30 U.S. and Canadian nominations. The award recognizes outstanding efforts to protect the Great Lakes Basin.
The SOLEC Success Story award was presented to the Land Conservancy at an Oct. 26 conference in Erie, Pa. SOLEC, which is a joint effort between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada, provides independent, science-based reporting on the state of the health of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem.
The Land Conservancy, which works to preserve the scenic beauty, rural character and natural resources of northern Ohio, has permanently protected more than 4,000 acres in the Grand River Watershed. The protected land includes the Land Conservancy-owned, 883-acre Ashcroft Woods property near Orwell in Ashtabula County.
October 18, 2011
Redevelopment expert speaks at land banking conference
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and Western Reserve Land Conservancy co-hosted the first-ever state conference on land banking in downtown Cleveland on October 12. Dan Kildee, co-founder and president of the Center for Community Progress, delivered the keynote speech for The First Convening of Ohio Land Banks conference provided an interactive forum to discuss tactics and strategies with county officials and others who are considering this tool to address urban blight.
Jim Rokakis, director of Thriving Communities Institute, and Paul Kaboth, vice president and community affairs officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, kicked off the inaugural conference, one that not only encouraged the launch of new county land banks throughout Ohio, but also will provide an ongoing forum for networking and progress.
Kildee is nationally regarded as a pioneer in community development and neighborhood stabilization, having founded the county land bank model in Michigan. In 2007, Kildee’s land bank program was named winner of the Harvard University/Fannie Mae Foundation Innovations in American Government Award for Affordable Housing...
September 12, 2011
LTA president praises work of Land Conservancy
One of the nation’s top conservationists described the Land Conservancy as “an extraordinary civic institution” and applauded the preservation work done by the organization in northern Ohio.
Rand Wentworth, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Land Trust Alliance, of which the Land Conservancy is a member, spoke at Friday’s EverGreen EverBlue, the Land Conservancy’s annual benefit. This year’s event, which was held at the recently preserved Stoneybrook Farm in Hunting Valley, drew a crowd of more than 600 people.
August 30, 2011
Meetings will focus on Grand River plan
Residents of Ashtabula and Geauga counties will have a chance to voice their opinions about the future of the Grand River watershed at a series of public meetings scheduled by the Land Conservancy and the Grand River Partnership, which includes groups working in the watershed.
The sessions will allow the public to discuss the creation of a Watershed Action Plan – a locally based document that represents the needs of the watershed’s residents – for the Upper Grand River.
The first meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Ashtabula County Soil & Water Conservation District, 39 Wall St., Jefferson. Residents within the following communities are encouraged to attend: Austinburg, Cherry Valley, Denmark, Dorset, Jefferson, Harpersfield, Lenox, Morgan, Richmond, Sheffield and Trumbull townships plus the Village of Jefferson in Ashtabula County; and Thompson and Montville townships in Geauga County.
July 11, 2011
Legislators praised for introducing
landmark conservation measure
Private landowners – and especially family farmers – will be the beneficiaries of legislation, co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Betty Sutton, D-13, Jim Renacci, R-16, Tim Ryan, D-17, Robert Latta, R-5, Marcy Kaptur, D-9 , and Steve LaTourette, R-14 , to make permanent the federal tax incentive for donations of conservation easements, according to the state’s largest land conservancy.
Rich Cochran, president and CEO of Western Reserve Land Conservancy, applauded the introduction of the landmark tax incentive bill. The incentive, which is slated to expire at the end of 2011, has helped the Land Conservancy work with willing landowners in our community to conserve more than 15,000 acres of agricultural land and natural areas since it was first enacted in 2006.
June 21, 2011
Friend from Hong Kong visits future headquarters
A Land Conservancy member who lives half a world away from northern Ohio paid a visit to the organization’s future home on Tuesday. Ting Fong Lee, a former Firelands Land Conservancy intern who resides in Hong Kong, toured the Moreland Hills house and property that will become the Land Conservancy’s new headquarters sometime in 2012.
May 26, 2011
Our search for endangered rattlesnakes
Rattlesnakes live in northern Ohio – a fact that surprises even some longtime residents.
The endangered Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, a venomous snake whose bite is rarely fatal to humans, can be found in the Grand River Lowlands. Herpetologist Greg Lipps, who has done extensive research on the Massasauga and has worked closely with Western Reserve Land Conservancy, recently led a group in search of these snakes.
May 23, 2011
McDonald and friends rock the Beachland
A crowd of more than 260 people packed the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern on Saturday night for the second Conservation Rocks! concert sponsored by the Land Conservancy.
The show featured musicians who also work in the field of local conservation, including the Land Conservancy’s Pete McDonald, who performed with Pete McDonald & the Black Oaks. Other acts were The Swamp Rattlers (featuring staffers from Geauga Park District), Fat City (with Harvey Webster of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History) and Drake Hollow featuring Steve Madewell (Lake Metroparks) and Al Bonnis (U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service).
“We had an absolute blast,” said McDonald, the Land Conservancy’s director of stewardship.
March 16, 2011
New institute seeks to revitalize vacant urban land
An innovative initiative designed to revitalize vacant urban land will bring together leading forces in land conservation and urban land issues in northern Ohio and beyond.
The Land Conservancy announced today that it will join with former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis (right) to create the Thriving Communities Institute, which will be devoted to facilitating the transformation of aging and declining urban areas through troubled mortgage and land vacancy mitigation, land conservation and land reuse in an intentional and integrated manner. By leveraging the Land Conservancy’s resources and Rokakis’ pioneering experience with an innovative land reutilization tool, the Institute will be able to take a regional approach to conservation planning that benefits its historic but distressed cities...
January 27, 2011
Historic property may become
Land Conservancy's new home
Western Reserve Land Conservancy, whicht has preserved nearly 23,000 acres in northern Ohio, plans to move its headquarters to a parcel adjacent to one of the preserves it helped to create in Moreland Hills. The Land Conservancy plans to relocate to a 22-acre parcel on the west side of Chagrin River Road, opposite the Cleveland Metroparks’ Polo Fields, by making an addition to the historic main home on the property, according to Rich Cochran, president and CEO of the Land Conservancy. The home, one of three buildings on the property, was originally a one-room schoolhouse built in the 1830s. The property is adjacent to and surrounded by the village’s signature park, Forest Ridge Preserve ...
January 10, 2011
Feb. 2 session will highlight
farmland preservation program
Farmers can learn more about the benefits of the state’s Agricultural Easement Purchase Program when the Land Conservancy, Medina Soil and Water Conservation District and the Ohio Department of Agriculture hold an informational session from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Medina County University Center, 6300 Technology Lane, Lafayette Township. Following an overview of the AEPP program by the Office of Farmland Preservation, Andy McDowell, who is the Land Conservancy’s western field director and has been involved in the protection of more than 4,000 acres...
December 21, 2010
Good news: Congress renews tax incentive
for those who preserve their land
The state’s largest land conservancy is applauding the renewal of a federal tax incentive for private landowners – especially working family farmers – who protect their land with a voluntary conservation easement.
Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which serves a 14-county region in northern Ohio, endorsed the move by Congress to renew the incentive, which had expired at the end of 2009. The tax incentive has helped the Land Conservancy work with willing landowners in our community to preserve more than 22,000 acres of productive agricultural lands and natural areas. Conservation-minded landowners now have until December 31, 2011 to take advantage...
December 3, 2010
Family preserves nearly 700 acres in Huron County
A Huron County family has permanently protected 686 acres—some of which it has owned since the 1830s – in cooperation with the Land Conservancy. Howard and Sharon Smith of Sherman Township have placed conservation easements on three properties in Sherman and Peru townships in west central Huron County…
November 19, 2010
Land Conservancy CEO receives Conservation Award
Rich Cochran, who started as the lone employee of what is now Western Reserve Land Conservancy and now heads an organization that has preserved more than 22,000 acres in northern Ohio, has been named the recipient of the 2010 Conservation Award by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Cochran, the president and CEO of the Land Conservancy since 1996, was honored during an awards ceremony on Nov. 19 where he was presented with the award on behalf of the Museum’s Board of Trustees...
November 4, 2010
Ohio EPA releases Brandywine watershed review
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has made public its Limited Environmental Review of the Brandywine Wetlands Protection Project in Hudson. The project, which consists of ecosystem protection focusing on preserving water quality in the Brandywine watershed ...
October 25, 2010
Reservoir draw-down is first phase of park plan
Lampson Reservoir will be slowly drained over the next three weeks as part of a joint plan to eliminate a potential flooding hazard and create a new Ashtabula County park.
The goal is to turn the land into a 92-acre county park with a publicly accessible, fishable area while restoring wetlands to improve water quality and habitat for fish and waterfowl.
October 12, 2010
504-acre park dedicated in Portage County
The 504-acre Burton D. and Margaret Clark Morgan Preserve, the newest addition to the Portage Park District, was officially dedicated in a ceremony Oct. 8 at the Shalersville Township property.
The preserve, which contains wetlands and forests, was created when The Burton D. Morgan Foundation and The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation worked with...
September 27, 2010
Landowners help celebrate conservation
The Land Conservancy on Sept. 23 honored those who have permanently preserved their property with conservation easements. The event was held at Orchard Hills Park in Chester Township.
The approximately 60 landowners...
August 30, 2010
Big turnout for second 'Yoga on the Preserve'
More than 450 people took part in the second Yoga on the Preserve on Sunday at the Geauga Park District’s Orchard Hills Park in Chester Township. The event was cosponsored by Cleveland Yoga and Western Reserve Land Conservancy...
August 23, 2010
Museum and Land Conservancy preserve Big Swamp Woods
The Land Conservancy, in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Natural Areas Program, has preserved 81 acres of a 430-acre wetland complex in Fitchville Township in Huron County. Big Swamp Woods, located in the headwaters of the Vermilion River watershed...
June 7, 2010
Oh deer! Fawn freed during Medina cleanup
May 6, 2010
Another 630 acres preserved in Huron County