By MINDY MCKENZIE
Daily Globe Staff Reporter
SHELBY- Director of Utilities John Ensman provided background history on Shelby’s owned recreation areas, while Richland County Park District Representative Kyle Bailey discussed potential future thoughts for the properties during the regular Utilities and Streets Committee meeting last week.
Ensman explained the owned recreation areas of the city included the Shelby Wetlands and vacant land west of Reservoir Number Two.
The Shelby Wetlands has approximately 60 acres of land just west and north of Reservoir Number Three and the vacant land west of Reservoir Number Two is located where Reservoir Number One used to be established.
Ensman stated the Shelby Wetlands property was acquired during the purchase of land for Reservoir Number Three in 1994-1995.
“Collaborating agencies were developing the wetlands for educational purpose,” Ensman said.
The project title was the Shelby School District Wetlands Education Project and collaborating agencies for the project included: City of Shelby, Shelby School District, Shelby Community Improvements Corporation, Richland County SWCD, Gorman Nature Center, and Erie Basin RCD.
Ensman said the summary of the Wetland Project was to provide access to wetlands for the purpose of enhancing the wetlands and providing educational opportunities.
The vacant land was established after Reservoir Number One was removed and filled in, Ensman explained.
This open field is mowed and maintained by the city’s Service Department.
“Administration has been entertaining some thoughts from the Richland County Park District that would allow the county to maintain and assume responsibilities of the properties,” Ensman said.
Ensman stated some of the responsibilities would involve reestablishing Shelby Wetlands by mowing the grass, maintaining trails, remove downed trees from the Black Fork river, and remove invasive species.
As far as the vacant land at Reservoir Number Two, Ensman said those responsibilities would be planting trees and creating a wildflower/pollinator field.
After presenting the background information on the properties, Ensman presented Bailey to the committee to discuss the county’s thoughts for the properties and how to move forward.
Bailey explained he was born and raised in Shelby. Once he was in college, Bailey said he began going out to the Shelby Wetlands.
“I found out it existed and I thought it was great. When I started college, I really began my outdoor adventures and began exploring and hiking. That is what led me to look around here for places that I could go and explore, which led to me to this local landline that we have right here,” Bailey said.
Over the years, Bailey explained he had compiled a list of the different plants, trees, and species which are in that area.
“It is in a unique spot and the wetlands are an important ecosystem. It is an important habitat and across the nation we have lost 80-90 percent of wetland habitat. In Ohio, we have lost about 90 percent all together. They are somewhat endangered,” Bailey stated. “There are many plants and animals that will reside there. They will use it during migration and it is a unique spot because you have the reservoir there and that will attract people for fishing and recreational purposes.”
Bailey explained he compiled evidence to show the importance of these spots in the community.
“We are kind of at a crossroad here in Shelby where we are trying to get it up and running again. That is where I got the gears turning in my head about this place. There are kiosks out there and there is a trail map that was produced in 2007. In ten years from when that trail map was established, the town has forgotten about this place. I just think it’s a shame because there has been a lot of community involvement with the intended use for this area,” Bailey said.
Bailey explained he began speaking Mayor Steven Schag, Ensman, and Project Coordinator of the city Joe Gies about a year ago about the properties.
“I brought it to their attention and told them there was a great recreation opportunity. I asked what they knew about it. So, basically we came to the conclusion that you guys don’t have a lot of time and resources that fills that niche as far as having the expertise to deal with it from a public usage perspective. I got my boss on board and he loved the area and I mentioned if this was something we could take on as maybe a property that we could add to the park district,” Bailey stated.
After a year, Bailey began doing some trimming out in the area and Gies, Ensman, and Schag were pleased with what was presented to them, Bailey explained.
“After speaking with my board and director everyone has got on board. I am presenting a resolution from the Richland County Park District from my board members. It basically lays out our purpose of intent. We had tossed out different scenarios on how to do this and keep everyone happy,” Bailey said. “After discussing it with my board, after much deliberation we came to the conclusion that the best way to pursue this would be for you guys to donate it to us and it says in the resolution that we would be willing to pay the transfer of legal title and all those things.”
Bailey explained why this conclusion for the properties had been decided upon.
“With administration changes and turnovers we just feel it may be in our best interest that if we want to build this up and help the community that if it was left to an easement, we may have some push back in the future from a new mayor or new city council,” Bailey said. “We are a county park district, so to justify sending me or another employee to the Shelby Wetlands my boss feels it would be hard to send me there for an extended period of time on the county dime.”
Bailey provided numerous letters of support for the project.
“I just feel like this a great way to reinvest in the area and it is a great way to invest into our children with the schools. We can get all this going right here,” Bailey said.
Schag explained he believed it was a shared passion in the city to see the wetlands come back to life.
“Kyle is a Shelby resident and I don’t see how it could get any better. We are opening the door to a big conversation, but I think this is a conversation worth having. It is of course up to council, but as Kyle has mentioned we would be that northern venue for education and recreation. I think this could be a great way to see the wetlands come back to life,” Schag said.
Committee member Nathan Martin explained the recommendation would be for the administration to come up with a plan and bring it before council and then move forward from there.