The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 15, 2012

Museum raising funds to buy land in Ashtabula County

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Fundraising is under way by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to acquire 125 acres of prime riparian corridor along the Ashtabula River in Sheffield and Kingsville townships

Jim Bissell, curator of botany/coordinator of natural areas for the museum, said a $15,000 corporate grant has been received toward the project. The grant requires a match, which already has been raised.

The Civic Development Corporation and Nature Conservancy also have kicked in money toward the purchase, which is being sold by a township family who did not want their name disclosed at his time.

Bissell said the property includes an outstanding example of virgin forest on the bluff.

“I don’t know of any other virgin forest on the Ashtabula River,” Bissell said.

The tract stretches for a 1/2 mile along the river and includes the area of the Benetka Road Covered Bridge. Bissell said the acquisition would be the museum’s first to include a covered bridge setting.

The museum plans to construct an access trail along the river and open up the area to fishermen and hikers.

“We’re not going to say ‘keep out’ anywhere,” Bissell said.

The museum is seeking District 7 Clean Ohio grant money to assist with the purchase. “Even if we don’t get Clean Ohio, we are definitely going to buy it. We’ll know by early December how we scored (on the grant application),” Bissell said.

Commissioners last week passed a resolution supporting the museum in its grant application. The resolution notes that the tract supports 66 species of breeding birds and 30 species of fish, including the prized steelhead trout. That attraction, combined with the hiking trail and covered bridge, is likely to generate more tourism to the spot, about a half-mile south of Plymouth Ridge Road.

A second parcel, known as the Arbor Drive tract and containing 33 acres, is also part of the grant application commissioners approved.