County Metroparks acquires new 129-acre preserve

Shown here is a view from inside the 129-acre former Camp Yakewi in Austinburg, a recent joint acquisition by the Ashtabula County Metroparks and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. The site will be restored, preserved and turned into the Upper Grand River Metropark, to be managed by the county district.

AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP — A former campsite in the township which has been mostly dormant for about a decade could soon see new activity.

The Ashtabula County Metroparks partnered with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to acquire the 129-acre former Camp Yakewi and turn it into a nature preserve, with potential for hiking, birding, camping or canoeing.

The park district plans to manage the new public green space, which will be be renamed as the Upper Grand River Metropark. But Larry Frimerman, executive director, said there’s much work to be done before the site’s usable, and a grand opening is far from announcement.

“In the short term our perspective is to get the site cleaned up, get buildings that are restorable shored up and get the place secured,” he said.

The metroparks and the nonprofit conservancy purchased the site with grant funding from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, a voter-approved program that funds preservation efforts in the state, and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Small Grants Program, which protects wetlands fauna through conservation projects, according to a release from the conservancy. The exact grant funding amount could not be confirmed Tuesday.

The metroparks also covered a remaining about $30,000, Frimerman said.

“Western Reserve Land Conservancy is grateful to have assisted Ashtabula’s growing park system in the permanent preservation of this unique property along the Grand River,” Brett Rodstrom, vice president of eastern field operations for the conservancy, is quoted in the release.

“The new public park will be a tremendous asset to the community.”

Frimerman said the scope of activities or programming at the new park has yet to be determined.

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