By Ed Runyan
A drive through northern Trumbull County can provide nature lovers with an opportunity to experience Ohio as it existed hundreds of years ago.
The efforts of two Cleveland-area nonprofit land-conservancy organizations are designed to ensure that people many generations from now will still have that opportunity.
The Western Reserve Land Conservancy, based in Moreland Hills east of Cleveland, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the University Circle area both received the support of the Trumbull County commissioners in February for two conservation projects in Farmington Township and one in Bloomfield Township.
The land conservancy and the museum are applying for money from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, which comes from money first approved by Ohio voters in 2000.
The land conservancy wants to purchase about 74 acres of land off Townline Road in Bloomfield Township called the Bloomfield Wetlands. Acquiring the land will allow the conservancy to protect land that will provide a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and plant species including the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, which is a candidate for the federal endangered species list.
The property contains about 564 linear feet of tributary streams to Rock Creek and forested and shrub wetlands, the conservancy says.
The conservancy also hopes to acquire a 146-acre parcel on Stroups Hickox Road in Farmington Township that it calls the Farmington Dead Branch project.
A database kept by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources indicates the presence of state-threatened species on the adjacent property, including Common Snipe, Keeled Bur-reed, Necklace Sedge, and Thin-leaved Sedge. The property is surrounded on three sides by the Grand River Wildlife Area.
“We are hopeful we can work with our partners to protect these significant natural resources for the benefit of Trumbull County residents and the entire region,” said Keith McClintock, the Land Conservancy’s vice president for conservation.
The museum received commissioners’ support for a grant to acquire property called the Mud Run Slump Protection Project in the Grand River area of Farmington Township.
That property would protect at least one rare state-listed species, the museum said.
Both organizations have been heavily involved in preserving land in Trumbull County in recent years, with the museum owning three preserves already — two in Mesopotamia Township covering 265 ares and one in Bristol Township that covers 293 acres.
It also recently applied for Clean Ohio funding for 88 acres of land in Bristol Township.
The land conservancy has preserved 47 Trumbull County properties totaling 7,114 acres to date. In Mahoning County, it has preserved two properties totaling 23 acres. In its Jan. 1 merger with Lisbon-based Little Beaver Creek Land Foundation, the organization assumed the protection of 11 properties totaling 301 acres near Lisbon.
The land conservancy also paid $451,000 to Nancy Kepner of Hartford Township in 2006 to have an agricultural easement placed on her 461-acre farm on Bushnell-Campbell Road.
The easement guarantees that the property will remain farmland in perpetuity by placing restrictions on the deed that will remain with the property even if the property is sold.
The restrictions mean the property cannot be sold off in individual lots, nor can a house be built on it.
The land conservancy’s efforts also resulted in the 2012 acquisition of a 443-acre parcel in the center of Bloomfield Township just west of the Western Reserve Greenway bike trail at a cost of more than $1 million.
The property, about two-thirds of a square mile, is now the largest park in the Trumbull County MetroParks system.
The land conservancy usually only secures easements on properties and doesn’t acquire them, said Kenneth Wood, director of communications and marketing. It has 476 properties across northern Ohio.
The land conservancy visits each site at least once per year to study it and determine whether it is being preserved properly, he said.