LIMA — Over a century ago, wetlands dominated the natural landscape in Northwest Ohio. Today, government officials are looking at bringing them back as an ecological solution to pollution and flooding.
Public Works Director Howard Elstro pitched one such project to Lima City Council Monday night. Known as the Lost Creek Wetlands Restoration and Trail Improvement Project, the city is looking to use state dollars to revert a portion of Lost Creek Golf Course, 45 acres, into a public park interspersed with 1.3 miles of biking and running trails that connect a larger trail system in the region.
The $1.5 million project includes the planting of 125 native trees, 350 shrubs and other plants conducive to wetland environments to create a biodiverse ecosystem similar to the ones that were here before the region’s early settlers drained the area in the 19th century.
Prior to the 1800s, academic sources estimate the state held 5 million acres of wetlands with about 900,000 acres concentrated in Northwest Ohio’s Great Black Swamp. Two centuries later, only about 5% remains due to agricultural expansion.
Officials say creating such wetland ecosystems today would help the immediate area with consistent flooding and pollution. Chad Carroll, natural resource manager with the Hancock Park District, said such ecosystems serve as a filter for many pollutants that are soaked up by plants and the soil while increasing local biodiversity, such as bird flocks.
“There’s not many large wetlands around here. It’s pretty unique ecosystem to northwest Ohio,” Carroll said. “(Wetlands) allow the water to slow down, spread out and filter out as opposed to sending the water straight to a ditch.”
Elstro estimated that if all 45 acres are able to hold a foot of water, the preserve could retain up to 14 million of gallons of run-off from the Harding Highway area — a retention capacity higher than the 13 million gallon underground tank currently being constructed under Simmons Field.
Like Lima, Hancock County Park District has also pushed wetland initiatives. One such project near Findlay is looking to revert 100 acres of Oakwood Nature Preserve into wetlands to serve the city. Another project in the county includes the planting of 2,000 trees on seven acres of cornfields near the Blanchard River in order to mitigate flooding.
The creation of wetlands also number as one of the four targeted priorities listed by Gov. Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio program, which he announced this past fall. The statewide initiative, according to its website, aims to “reduce harmful algal blooms, improve wastewater infrastructure and prevent lead contamination,” and state funds have been made available for government organizations with a wetlands plan.
“Anything that can help Lake Erie right now is a big deal,” Carroll said.
Lima’s Lost Creek project is looking to take advantage of such funds.
The project also makes use of the golf course’s 45 acres of flood plain, which were donated to the city. Originally owned by Tom Holtsberry, such land is unusable as a location for housing. The remaining acreage is currently planned as an extensive housing development, and overhead views of the park’s plan show how the two groups are looking to carve up the parcel to transform the area if plans move forward.
Elstro’s full presentation to council, including pictures of what the final product may look like, can be found at limaohio.com.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.