Thanks to the Black Swamp Conservancy, the Park District of Ottawa County (PDOC) has acquired its first ever park. The Black Swamp Conservancy, a respected regional land trust, donated an undeveloped 12-acre parcel of land to PDOC that includes a broad marsh and a quarter mile of shoreline on Lake Erie’s West Harbor. The parcel, located in Catawba Island Township, will be the future site of a park maintenance facility and will include a kayak launch, walking trails, a parking area, and habitat restoration projects. It is the first park area owned by PDOC and will be named the West Harbor Preserve.
The 12-acre parcel is one of two strategic pieces of conservation land on Catawba Island that were purchased earlier this year by the Black Swamp Conservancy through a grant from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund. The other property contains more than 19 acres of mature hardwood forest that will be retained by the conservancy for migratory bird and wildlife habitat.
“On Dec. 21, 2023, we had a milestone moment for the park district. It has been 31 years since the inception of the park district, but we can now say we own property to develop our first park area,” said PDOC Executive Director Jannah Wilson. “Working with the Black Swamp Conservancy has been a great experience and we look forward to a strong partnership for years to come as we work together to reestablish the natural riparian habitat. Most importantly, we are grateful for the support from Ottawa County taxpayers. Projects such as this are made possible through the Park District’s current 10-year .6 mill operating levy which was passed by Ottawa County voters in November, 2020. The operating levy will continue to support the park district as we develop amenities and maintain the property now and in the future.”
PDOC, which was first established in 1992, will be issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for a park master plan and preliminary engineering design, Wilson said.
Development of the West Harbor Preserve will take up to two years, during which time the preserve will not be publicly accessible. Located in Catawba Island Township on a body of water known locally as “the inner harbor,” the protection of the 12 acres prevents the land from being lost to development, according to information in a West Harbor Preserve Documentation Report provided by Ellie Schiappa, conservation associate for Black Swamp Conservancy. Preserving this open space for perpetuity ensures this essential property is protected from development pressures.
“The conservancy is pleased to donate this property to the Park District of Ottawa County. That this project represents the park district’s first owned land is all the more exciting,” said Rob Krain, executive director of Black Swamp Conservancy. “Our organization often takes the lead on acquiring important lands, like this one, and gifting them to local entities to manage for public use. We’ve done similar projects with Catawba Island Township, Danbury Township, Sandusky County Park District and many other partners.”