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Published: 4/22/2012

COMMENTARY

Clean Ohio needs full funding

BY STEVE MADEWELL

The Clean Ohio Fund has made our state a more attractive place to live, work, and enjoy the tremendous bounty of our natural resources. A remarkably successful, competitive, and cost-effective program, Clean Ohio enjoys bipartisan support and overwhelming approval by voters.

Gov. John Kasich and state lawmakers can enhance our communities, while improving property values and the environment, by providing full funding for Clean Ohio in this year's budget review bill.

Clean Ohio is funded through the sale of bonds, not a tax. Since its creation in 2000, public and not-for-profit conservation groups across the state have used the program to protect more than 26,000 acres of natural areas and 20,000 acres of farmland from development.

Clean Ohio helps protect our Great Lakes and local waterways by reducing pollution and runoff, keeping water cleaner for drinking and suitable for recreation. It helps revitalize and reuse brownfields.

The program is good for our economy because it funds projects that generate activity and jobs in areas ranging from construction to high-tech industries. It stimulates the production of agricultural and recreational goods and services. And it creates opportunities for travel and tourism.

In northwest Ohio, Metroparks of the Toledo Area has relied on Clean Ohio -- along with the strong support of Lucas County taxpayers -- to help maintain our premier system of natural, historical, and cultural parklands. Since 1928, Metroparks has preserved more than 11,000 acres of parkland. We have made a commitment to maximize the value of local support by actively pursuing outside funding.

Through its competitive grant process, Clean Ohio has awarded Metroparks nearly $6.8 million. This money, combined with existing financial resources, has enabled Metroparks to protect more than 2,000 acres in Lucas County.

Thanks to Clean Ohio grants, we have bought a 303-acre addition that doubled the size of Pearson Metropark in Oregon, and a 978-acre site of a future Metropark next to the Metzger Marsh State Wildlife Area along State Rt. 2 in Jerusalem Township.

We also have purchased 767 acres within a seven-mile-long corridor in western Lucas County. That land will form a greenway to connect the two largest Metroparks, Secor and Oak Openings Preserve.

Metroparks has options to acquire 227 acres of additional parkland. But they may be lost if Clean Ohio funds are not available.

Open space and parkland have significant, beneficial effects on a community. They provide a sense of place in an ever-changing world, along with areas in which we can gather, exercise, relax, and learn.

Natural areas and open space contribute to clean air and water. They enhance and stabilize property values, provide habitat for animals, and add immeasurably to our quality of life. They also make a community more attractive to potential residents and businesses.

Outdoor activities such as the spring walleye run on the Maumee River attract tourists who spend money in our communities. A study last year by Bowling Green State University concluded that bird-watchers spend $26 million a year in northwest Ohio.

Full funding of Clean Ohio would continue a program that voters have overwhelmingly supported. In 2008, voters in all 88 counties reauthorized the program by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

The Clean Ohio fund needs its full appropriation this year.

Steve Madewell is executive director of Metroparks of the Toledo Area.



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