IT WAS a tragedy to cut down thousands of ash trees in Pearson Metropark, but it was born out of necessity. The state of Ohio needed to make a stand against the emerald ash borer. So a new plan to double the park's acreage and develop a man-made wetlands comes along at a good time.
The development boom has upset the ecology, left fewer places for water to run off, and further disturbs natural habitat. This wetlands mitigation project is a welcome step to redress the natural balance.
It will be consistent with the park and Lucas County's ecological heritage in that there will mostly be standing water some months of the year, meaning it will be like a swamp forest. That stirs images of swamps and frogs, but after all, this region was once the Great Black Swamp.
Dramatic change won't occur immediately. The project gets under way next year, and could take years, perhaps decades, to convert 225 acres of the 306 acres adjacent to the park. The project will be on park property that was formerly a farm at Oregon's Starr Avenue and Lallendorf Road at the northern end of the park.
As Lucas County's first wetlands mitigation project, it is particularly important since DaimlerChrysler developed land in North Toledo for its new Jeep assembly plant in the 1990s. Although there is no requirement that developers pursue wetlands restoration in the same county where it is destroyed, that is certainly preferred.
However, that's not always possible. When the auto company expanded, there were not enough sites in Lucas County for the auto firm to purchase and restore into wetlands. So, on behalf of DaimlerChrysler, the City agreed to send a total of $750,000 to purchase undeveloped acreage and restore wetlands in Sandusky County.
Doing the same at Pearson Park won't take a dime of taxpayer money. The $1.25 million for the project comes from the Ohio Wetlands Foundation in Lancaster. The parks agency closed on the $2 million deal in 2003; $820,000 of that came from a Clean Ohio Fund grant. It was a worthy investment, one that Toledoans will fully appreciate some day when they take their grandchildren to watch the birds and hear the frogs in the marshes.