Imagine a boardwalk, observation point and nature walking trail over wetlands at Indians Trails Park. Add to that dream an easily accessible primitive canoe launch to the Ashtabula River.

 “The good news is this new park enhancement project is beginning on East 24th Street at the northern terminus of Indian Trails Park,” said Michael Wayman, president of Ashtabula Township Park Commission.

The project is being funded from a settlement of natural resource damage claims with the Ashtabula River Cooperation Group II (ARCG II). The ARCG II is an association of companies organized for the purpose of implementing the Ashtabula River cleanup.

The ARCG II and the Ashtabula River natural resource damage trustees, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, agreed to settle natural resource damage claims in 2008. The trustees determined that natural resources were damaged and the public suffered a loss of natural resource services, such as fishing and boating, Wayman said.

Under the settlement, ARCG II is implementing restoration actions such as this park and also buying other ecologically valuable properties along the river to protect Ashtabula’s natural resources for the future.

The park commission purchased this property in 2006 with money provided through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This acquisition added more than 37 acres to the existing Indian Trails Park.

“Of these 37 acres, the majority of the property is a flood plain with wetland, pond and woodland features,” Wayman said. “The deed for the property includes an environmental covenant intended to keep the property in its natural state and protect this ecologically valuable land.”

 Indians Trails Park alone has 402 acres along a four-mile stretch of the Ashtabula River, designated in 2008 as a State Scenic River. The designation gives the river a higher level of protection. It does not infringe upon the rights of private property owners, but it does give the river’s advisory council some authority over public projects affecting the stream.

de maximis, inc. is the project coordinator for the ARCG II and will manage activities at Indian Trails Park. The Ohio Valley Group, a landscape development company from Chagrin Falls, has been selected to perform restoration activities in the new park area.

Valerie Rule, a professional engineer with de maximis’ Knoxville, Tenn. office, was on site Thursday. She said they want to keep the park as natural as possible.

“We will be planting trees to establish woodland wetland,” she said. “This will encourage an amphibian population.”

Wayman said they are committed to utilizing Ashtabula residents to perform the improvements at this park.

 “The Ashtabula Township Park Commission is excited to be working with the NRD Trustees, ARCG II, de maximis, and Ohio Valley Group and is pleased that the NRD Trustees selected this project for Indian Trails Park which will be an asset for the entire Ashtabula community,” he said.

The commission acquired the first parcel of what would become Indian Trails in November 1908. It was the Frank Adams and Howard Knox property, which was on Main Street, nearly opposite Sycamore Street. By late December, more land in the gulf of the Ashtabula River was bought from Mary A. and C.O. Smith, A.H. Morgan, and L. J. Fargo. The land sold from $1,000 to $5,000 with some donated, according to the Ashtabula Township Park website.

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