Conneaut seeks to acquire wetlands

Land north of the railroad tracks on the west side of Thompson Road in Conneaut is being considered for a new park.

CONNEAUT — A new park may be in the works for the city of Conneaut.

The prospect of the city taking control of 122 acres of land was raised at a work session earlier this month, with Brett Rodstrom, vice president of Eastern Field Operations with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

The land is directly west of the Turkey Creek Metropark. The rectangular piece of land is between Thompson and Woodworth roads and the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

“We’ll do all the heavy lifting on the grant. We’ll pay for everything. You’re basically buying the property from us, and we’re fundraising for that $310,000 it’s worth, based on our appraisal, Rodstrom said.

“We would go out and get those funds and turn the property over to the city. It would be used as a passive park forever for the city and that would be the end of the story.”

On Monday, City Council passed an ordinance for a Clean Ohio grant application for the purchase of the property. The Land Conservancy plans to fundraise on behalf of the city to raise money for the purchase of the property, Rodstrom said.

The property would be free for the city because of the fundraising, Rodstrom said. The land would be under a conservation easement. That easement would allow for a passive park with things like trails and pavilions, Rodstrom said.

“I think this is a pretty piece of property, I’ve seen it, and I think it should be publicly accessible to all if it’s going to be under easement,” City Manager Jim Hockaday said before the grant application was passed.

The city can also seek Clean Ohio grant funds to add parking and trails to the property, Hockaday said.

The property was purchased in 2015 by the conservancy, as part of a larger deal that included the property that would become Turkey Creek Metropark, Rodstrom said.

Since then, the Conservancy has been working to sell the property. 90 acres of the 122 acre lot are wetlands, making it not feasible for industrial or commercial development, Rodstrom said. The Environmental Protection Agency requires any wetlands that are destroyed in the course of construction to be offset by purchasing credits from a mitigation bank, paying fees in lieu of restoration or permittee-responsible mitigation.

Mitigating wetlands can cost $30,000 per acre, Rodstrom said.

The property has not generated tax income in modern history, so there would be no tax loss to the city, Rodstrom said.

“There’s opportunities if you keep it public. If it goes private, I mean, I don’t think it’s really going to hurt anything, but it would just be a shame because it will be locked out forever,” Hockaday said earlier this month.

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