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Published: Wednesday, 2/16/2005

Sylvania: Lease change may open way to obtain a state grant

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A change in a lease agreement for a once-abandoned quarry has opened up the possibility of a state grant for Fossil Park, an increasingly popular Sylvania-area attraction.

Sylvania City Council has approved deleting a clause in the agreement that allowed either the city or the property's owner, Hanson Aggregates Midwest, Inc., the right to cancel the 99-year lease with one year's notice.

Gary Madrzykowski, manager of The Olander Park System that operates Fossil Park, said the clause made it difficult and in some cases impossible to obtain grants because agencies were leery of putting money into improvements when it was possible the company could take the land back.

Dudley Blake, in charge of the local Hanson office, said the company has been working with the city and the park district for some time to alter the lease, "and we just wanted to be sure everyone was on the same page.''

Although the paperwork will take some time before it is completed by the company, Mr. Blake said the issue has been, "discussed up the line,'' and no problem is anticipated in ammending the lease.

Mr. Madrzykowski said the park district has an application on file with a state agency asking for about $125,000 to help bring utilities to the site. He said that without the change in the lease, the grant application would not be considered.

"It doesn't mean we'll get it,'' he said, "but at least we'll be considered.''

Mr. Madrzykowski said that whether or not the district gets a state grant, it intends to extend water and sewer lines to the park and to bring electricity to the old quarry.

Steve Marvin, operations director for the Olander system, said the work should be concluded by August.

Once utilities are extended to the site, the park district intends to construct a building that will have rest rooms and a small office for staff members.

That project is estimated to cost about $260,000. The district plans to use a $100,000 loan from Sylvania Area Community Improvement Corp. and apply for grants to fund the remainder.

The city subleases the 8-acre Fossil Park to Olander.

That agreement is a series of eight 10-year leases that do not have a cancellation clause, although the city could take back the property if it is not developed and maintained by the park district.

Sylvania City Council president Barbara Sears noted that the agreement calls for the park district to invest $50,000 per year for the first 10 years.

Sylvania Law Director James Moan said the city is confident that the district will live up to that part of the lease.

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough said that although the system has been busy in developing recently-acquired parkland in western Sylvania Township, there appears to be no let up in expanding Fossil Park amenities.

The park, on Centennial Road just south of Sylvania-Metamora Road, has only been open on weekends during its first three seasons, but Mr. Madrzykowski said plans call for it to be open Wednesdays through Sundays once construction is complete.

The quarry floor is supplied by Hanson with fossil-bearing rocks from their active quarrying operations in the area.

The rocks aren't suitable for the company's purposes, but are rich with fossils that can be removed by hand.

The site has attracted an average of 20,000 visitors each of its first three summers and officials have said that number should increase when it is open more days a week and has rest rooms available.

The park system also operates Olander Park on Sylvania Avenue, Whetstone Park on McGregor Lane, and 60 acres of unnamed parkland east of Mitchaw Road, between Sylvania Avenue and Brint Road.

The system is overseen by a three-member board of trustees and is supported primarily through a levy passed by voters in the Sylvania school district.

The levy raises about $800,000 annually, and the other $300,000 of its annual budget of $1.1 million comes from admissions fees and equipment rental, and rental of facilities at the sites.

The system is working to bring back native plants to part of the oak savanna behind Southview High School and has personnel who present nature programs at sites in the community.

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096



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