Western Reserve Land Conservancy – Ohio’s largest land trust – capped off a challenging 2020 by reaching an important milestone. The Land Conservancy has now permanently conserved 801 properties totaling more than 65,000 acres of precious land and water resources.
Despite the challenges of a global pandemic that limited in-person engagement and kept most of the Land Conservancy staff working remotely, the organization managed to conserve 4,378 acres at 26 properties across northern Ohio.
“Now, more people are able to enjoy the beauty of Ohio’s natural landscapes at public parks and preserves we’ve helped create,” said Rich Cochran, president and CEO of Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “Working family farms will be conserved for future generations. Abandoned structures in Cleveland are being replaced with side yards, green spaces and public parks. The Land Conservancy and our partners are proud of what we’ve accomplished for communities across northern Ohio and are excited about what more will come.”
In December alone, the Land Conservancy established permanent conservation on a variety of properties:
- McKelvey Lake, Youngstown, Mahoning County – After years of planning and coordination, the Land Conservancy successfully completed the acquisition, protection and transfer of the McKelvey Lake property. This project was completed in cooperation with the City of Youngstown and the sellers, Aqua Infrastructure, LLC. The City of Youngstown now proudly owns the approximately 125-acre lake surrounded by 275 acres of green space that sits within 3 miles of Downtown Youngstown in Mahoning County. The property, formerly purchased as a private water source, surrounded by fence and completely inaccessible for people to enjoy will now be open to the public for passive recreation including fishing and non-motorized boating. The location of the property is key in providing access to greenspace to the underserved residents of the City of Youngstown and Mahoning County which is known to contain one of the lowest percentages of preserved land compared to all of Northeast Ohio. Future improvement plans for the property may include a parking area, boat launch, and installation of trails and a scenic overlook.
- Polomsky North, Middlefield Township, Geauga County – This 50-acre donated property is located along the west side of State Route 528 between Burton-Windsor Road and Nauvoo Road. The property also uniquely finds itself on the topographic divide between the Cuyahoga and Grand River Watersheds and is adjacent to Akron Watershed lands. The Polomsky family, who leased this farm prior to ownership, purchased it from the Craig family in 2016. The Craig family owned the property for multiple generations and operated it as a grain and dairy farm. The property is currently utilized as a working grain farm growing corn, beans, and winter wheat in annual rotations.
- Suszynski South Ridge, Harpersfield/Geneva Township, Ashtabula County – The property is currently comprised of old nursery land with prime farmland soils in the Grand River Viticulture Region. The land is adjacent to The Winery at Spring Hill which is owned and managed by former Land Conservancy Trustee, Tom Swank. The northern portion of the property is wooded and contains a small one-acre pond. Owners Jeff and Cindy Suszynski intend to remove the majority of the nursery stock and replant the area with native plants and traditional agriculture grains to promote wildlife forage and habitat which will be an exciting transformation to watch over the years.
- Lucky Sand & Gravel, Mantua Township, Portage County – This unique property is a reclaimed sand and gravel quarry that operated for at least thirty years mining on a farm originally owned by the Cavanaugh Family whose home farm is still adjacent to the newly protected property. The property consists of 150 acres of land of which is largely reclaimed sand and gravel mine area. In total, lakes measuring 27 acres, 14 acres, and 4 acres respectively are found on the western half of the property with over 25 acres of emergent and scrub-shrub wetlands located on the central and eastern portions of the property that fronts on Mantua-Center Road. This property also serves as the exact beginning of the Aurora Branch of the Chagrin River although interestingly enough, the majority of the property is in the Cuyahoga River Watershed. This project is a great example of the blossoming success of the Land Conservancy’s Conservation Buyer Program.
- Keister Farm, Paris Township, Stark County – The protected property is owned by Sharon Keister and is largely comprised of agricultural land used to farm corn, beans, and wheat, and to raise beef cattle and honey bees. This rolling hillside farm includes 37 acres of forests and 5,250 linear feet of tributaries to the Tuscarawas River. Mrs. Keister and her late husband purchased the property in the 1970’s and she hopes to keep it in the family for as long as possible. Her son, Scott, helps manage the property and was instrumental in helping coordinate this conservation for his mother.
- Living the Dream Farm, Edinburg Township, Portage County – The 45-acre farm is located in the Mahoning River watershed near the Land Conservancy’s Carrington conservation easement (Palmyra Twp) and Sampson conservation easement (Deerfield Twp). The property is largely used for row crop farming, but about 50 pigs are also raised each year on the farm. The Land Conservancy started working with Mr. Mike Diehl back in 2016 with an Ohio Department of Agriculture farmland application being submitted in April of 2017. This is only the 3rd ODA Agricultural Easement the Land Conservancy has completed in Portage County (Sampson and Carrington being the first two).
- Woodring-Dickson Farm, Unity Township, Columbiana County – Owned by Douglas and Carol Woodring, the 40-acre Woodring Dickson Farm is located in the northeast corner of Columbiana County near the corner of Dickson Road and State Line Road along the Pennsylvania state line. The property has been in Carol’s family for exactly 100 years (1920) and is the remnant of the original 284-acre Dickson Family Farm, which has since been subdivided into smaller parcels over the last several decades. The farm was originally purchased by Carol’s grandfather, John C. Dickson, who was an opera coach in Cleveland and Pittsburgh while her grandmother Hilda impressively ran the entire farm essentially by herself.
- Williams Conservation Easement, Village of Waite Hill, Lake County – The Property contains exceptional mature hardwood forests and approximately 1,400 linear feet of Quarry Creek, a coldwater tributary to the East Branch of the Chagrin River. Quarry Creek is also a seasonal steelhead trout run which makes for interesting fishing opportunities in such skinny water. The Property is adjacent to the Kirtland Country Club and located approximately three-quarters of a mile from the Augustus Preserve owned and managed by the Land Conservancy. This property is accentuated by a large stand of very mature hardwoods with the ravines and geologically unique razorbacks tipped with towering ridge-lined oaks which is very reminiscent of the forest of the Sherwin Preserve also found in the Village of Waite Hill.