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Published: Wednesday, 3/2/2005

Sledders, history buffs battle for site

Sledding enthusiasts faced off against history buffs yesterday during an open house at which area residents debated the future of the Fort Miamis site in Maumee.

About 45 people attended the four-hour meeting at the Maumee branch library. They filled out surveys about their preferences for Fort Miamis, located at the south end of Michigan Avenue near River Road, and got into some heated discussions about whether sledding at the site should skid to a halt in favor of historic preservation.

"They're trying to preserve piles of dirt. It's laughable," said Tim Sczesny, a local resident.

Fort Miamis is owned and maintained by the city of Maumee, but officially managed by the Toledo Area Metroparks, which is working with the National Park Service to create a national historical site linking Fort Miamis, the Fallen Timbers battlefield, and a nearby monument to the battle.

"Fort Miamis has national significance," said John Jaeger, director of natural resources for the metroparks. "The vast number of people I've talked to understand the historical significance of the site and the need to preserve it for future generations."

The National Park Service insists that sledding must stop at Fort Miamis because historic artifacts beneath the ground might be damaged. Some residents and city officials have raised objections to the call to forbid sledding at the site.

The metroparks organized yesterday's open house to showcase three alternative sledding sites in Maumee and get public comment. The park district suggested constructing hills at the Lucas County Recreation Center, Side Cut Metropark, or the current Askin Street site of Fort Miami Elementary School. The school will soon be replaced by a new one along River Road.

The metroparks would help find grants to aid in construction of sledding hills, but it would not fund the projects on property not owned by the park district, officials said.

If Maumee wants to continue to allow sledding at Fort Miamis, it could withdraw the site's national historic designation and operate it as a city park. Councilman Brent Buehrer said it's a difficult situation, because officials do not want to lose the historic designation, but the sledding hill is an important part of the community.

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