Jerusalem Township gets wetlands grant for park

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Jerusalem Township received a $57,000 grant to develop wetlands at the John T. Kennedy Memorial Park, adjacent to the township fire department complex off State Rte. 2.
        “There’s nothing there right now, just an empty field,” said Trustee Beau Miller, who pushed for the grant.
        “Four years ago, when I was running for trustee, it was one of my campaign promises. I thought we needed to do something about it. It took me four years and a lot of legwork before I ended up getting the $57,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Ducks Unlimited, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, who are paying 100 percent to put in the wetlands.”
        Miller reached out to the Oregon City Schools District to see if there was interest in a partnership on the project.
        “I reached out to Superintendent Hal Gregory and Dean Sandwich (assistant superintendent) and make the project into a John T. Kennedy outdoor learning center. They were 100 percent onboard,” said Miller.  “They now lease that from us for $1 per year. They are going to run their career tech programs through it.”
Student research
        Students at Clay High School will be able to conduct research at the site, observe nesting boxes, and decide whether to develop an observation deck to watch from a distance, said Miller.
        “There could be a deck for the wetlands, and there will be a walking path. There is also interest in putting in a walking library there as well.”
        The wetlands will cover about half of the 30 acre park, and half will consist of prairie and upland grass to start with. Some wildflowers will be planted next year, said Miller.
        “My main goal was let’s partner with the schools, let’s get something done with this piece of property that has had nothing done with it. The township and the schools don’t have the money to invest in it. So we worked with the ODNR, Ducks Unlimited, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife to get this done.”
        The ODNR recommended three contractors with whom it had successfully worked. “I had contacted the three they recommended, and Sinclair Excavating, Port Clinton, had the best bid,” said Miller.
Kiss credit
        Miller gives credit to the late Trustee Joe Kiss for his efforts to get something done at the park years ago.
        “He tried this many years ago. He was so close to getting it done, but the other trustees on the board at that time shot it down. It kind of took the wind out of the sails and they never re-approached it. I restarted it and followed through with it. It was a lot of work and took a lot of convincing to get it going again,” he said.
        “The kids will have a pretty nice outdoor learning center that will hopefully be there for many years to come. I’d like to look for more grants to put in a small solar field to maybe power our complex at the township and use some of that space back there with renewable energy. There are different things we can do. I’d also like to plant some trees back there for native species.”
        The property was purchased with a grant to develop into a memorial park for John T. Kennedy, a township firefighter who was killed in the line of duty.
        “We couldn’t farm it or make money off of it. It had to be strictly a park. It was just basically a piece of property sitting there,” he said.
        Ducks Unlimited will donate a new sign that will continue to honor John T. Kennedy while recognizing its new purpose as a wetlands, said Miller.
        Sinclair plans to start construction at the site on Aug. 10.


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