Conservancies, landowners preserve 92 acres in Gates Mills

A joint effort by two conservation groups and two landowners has permanently preserved another 92 acres in the village of Gates Mills.

The Sherman Road Preserve, located at the southwest corner of Sherman and County Line roads, is the product of a partnership between two nonprofits, Gates Mills Land Conservancy and Western Reserve Land Conservancy, plus donations from landowners Evelyn Newell and Hickory Nut Farm, LLC.

A Clean Ohio Fund grant was used to purchase the northern 38 acres along Sherman Road.  This property, along with three acres donated by Hickory Nut Farm, will be owned by Gates Mills Land Conservancy.  Western Reserve Land Conservancy holds a conservation easement on this 41-acre tract. A conservation easement permanently barring development of the remaining 51 acres – an easement co-held by the land conservancies – was donated by Newell, who retains ownership.

The land conservancies have been working on this project since 2008.

“This is a great example of what can be accomplished when conservation organizations work in concert with conservation-minded landowners for the benefit of the larger community,” said Joe Leslie, director of acquisitions for Western Reserve Land Conservancy.  “We are grateful for the generosity of Evelyn Newell and Hickory Nut Farm and for the partnership of Gates Mills Land Conservancy.

Chris Szell, director of conservation project management for Western Reserve Land Conservancy, said the assistance of the Ohio Public Works Commission, which oversees Clean Ohio funding, was critical in the completion of the Sherman Road project. The project is in the district of State Sen. Tom Patton, a long-standing supporter of Clean Ohio funding.

“Through the Clean Ohio Fund, we continue our commitment to protecting the beauty and sanctity of natural areas and the unique species that inhabit them,” Patton said. “I applaud Gates Mills Land Conservancy and Western Reserve Land Conservancy for their collaboration to make the Sherman Road Preserve possible.”

The project adds to the significant land-preservation efforts in Gates Mills, where GMLC has permanently preserved 550 acres, or approximately 11.4 percent of all the land in the village.  Western Reserve Land Conservancy preserves natural areas and farmland throughout northern and eastern Ohio; to date, Western Reserve Land Conservancy has protected more than 560 properties and more than 42,000 acres.

Szell said the property has grasslands, about 44 acres of hardwood forest and a primary headwater stream that flows directly into the State Scenic Chagrin River. The tributary begins at the eastern portion of the property at an elevation of approximately 1,050 feet and drops nearly 300 feet before it empties into the Chagrin River.

Over the years, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has surveyed the 51‐acre southern parcel and identified  approximately 136 tree and plant species;  46 species of sedges, grasses, mosses, ferns and fungi; 56 bird species; seven amphibian and reptile species; six mammal species; and 89 insect and arthropod species.

Three species of significance have been found on the property: Bobolink, a grassland nesting bird species that is a state species of concern; a very uncommon ground beetle (Pterostichus atratus), of which the first collected specimen used to describe the species was collected in nearby Cleveland; and the northern two‐lined salamander, which serves as an indicator species of high quality headwater habitat. Two other salamander species – the northern dusky and the eastern red-backed – were also found on the property.

Western Reserve Land Conservancy preserves natural areas and farmland in northern and eastern Ohio and helps revitalize cities statewide through its Thriving Communities Institute.  To date, the Land Conservancy has permanently preserved more than 560 properties and more than 42,000 acres. The Land Conservancy is headquartered in Moreland Hills and has field offices in Cleveland, Akron, Medina, Oberlin, Chardon and Orrville.

The Gates Mills Land Conservancy is a private, non-profit, tax-exempt membership organization whose mission is to preserve the unique nature of the open space in the Village of Gates Mills.  Membership includes approximately one-quarter of the 900 families in the village. GMLC, which is supported by a 1-mill tax levy, owns approximately 20 properties in the village and holds conservation easements on other parcels.