The expansion of Wintergarden-St. John’s Nature Preserve has been finalized.
The nearly 20 acres formerly owned by Carlene Creps has been purchased for $430,000.
Use of the land, which is the last adjacent parcel to the 100-acre park, will be incorporated in the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation master plan, which will be updated in 2021.
Parks Director Kristin Otley said she foresees trails being added, perhaps some benches and maybe a rustic shelter.
“It’s an extension of the preserve,” she said, adding native restoration will be key.
The parks foundation raised $108,000 for the purchase, with the balance paid for by grants through the Black Swamp Conservancy and Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation Program.
Otley said park staff have begun exploring the land, which is east of Wintergarden Road and south of the existing park.
“It’s just an extension of our natural environment out there,” Otley said.
The purchase excludes the houses and barn that are on the property.
Creps said that land has been in her family since 1898 and she was amazed at the interest the city had for it.
“They were all excited about it,” she said.
She said at 82 years old, she can no longer mow the land and keep it free of saplings and noxious weeds.
“I was doing a lot of the work for 10 years. I gotta slow down a little bit,” Creps said.
The land previously had been leased through the state for grasslands; that lease ran out earlier this year.
Otley said no other park expansions are planned since many of them are landlocked.
That “is clearly why the Black Swamp Conservancy and we were interested in that property,” she said, explaining it is the last contiguous land to Wintergarden Park.
“We’re very, very excited because it preserves that land, it keeps it accessible to the public, and it adds to the nature preserve people in Bowling Green love and use,” Otley said.
“When we put together an environmental management plan for that property, it won’t be any different than the plan for the rest of the acreage,” said Chris Gajewicz, natural resources coordinator.
He said a longer trail system will be added, non-native invasive species will be managed, and a wetland may be developed in future years.
The purchase also eliminates the chance for future development.
Part of the deal is for the city to put the entire park under a conservation easement that will forever restrict the use of the land as a park.
Creps hopes the land stays forever wild.
“A lot of surrounding neighbors have been helping to make sure that stays woods and wild,” she said.
”People understand how important that land is and to be able to make the park as big as it can be” Gajewicz said.
The former Wintergarden Woods had a lodge built in 1969 to accommodate summer camps and overnight stays by local scouting groups, as well as an American Youth Hostel.
Tucker Woods was added to the park in 2010, building upon Wintergarden Woods, St. John’s Woods, Bordner Meadow and Twyman Woods.
The lodge was renovated in 1995 to convert it to a nature center and received a major facelift in 2018.