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Published: Tuesday, 7/19/2005

Widow's bequest of 69 acres accepted

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

RUDOLPH - As Lucile Reuthinger Knepper watched industry spring up on the land surrounding her family's Perrysburg Township homestead, she decided to find a way to keep the farm intact even after her death.

Mrs. Knepper, who died in March, left the 69 acres on Tracy Road just north of Owens Community College to the Wood County Park District. Her will stipulated that the land be protected and preserved, that it not be used for a sports complex of any kind, and that a sign naming it the J.C. Reuthinger Memorial Park be erected.

"There's a lot of light industrial growth all around it, so this will be a little island of green," Parks Director Neil Munger told park commissioners yesterday when the board met at the Rudolph Civic Center.

The board accepted the Rossford woman's gift, much to the delight of Mrs. Knepper's friend and neighbor, Betty Woods of Rossford.

"I'm just really excited," Ms. Woods said. "She was a neat lady, very quiet and unassuming. I had wanted her to meet with the park board before she became debilitated, but she said no. She just wanted to make sure it got done."

Ms. Woods said after Mrs.

Knepper's husband, Ben, died, she was deluged with calls from real estate agents and developers interested in the prime property. A retired home economics teacher for Perrysburg schools, Mrs. Knepper was at one time offered $1.5 million to $1.8 million for the land, Ms. Woods said.

"I was there one day when she got one of those calls," Ms. Woods said. "She said, 'No. Before you go any further, it's not for sale. It's going to the park district, and it's going to stay the way it is.'‚óŹ"

The property is primarily farmland, plus about 10 acres of woods and a small house.

Mr. Munger said the land would continue to be farmed for the time being, but he told the board it would be a perfect site for the park district's native plant project.

The park district would like to build a greenhouse there and use a portion of the land to raise native plants that would then be transplanted in parks and nature preserves throughout the county.

The Friends of the Parks have committed to raising $18,000 over a three-year period to build the greenhouse.

"For a greenhouse, you need gas, electricity, and water. Given the fact that they're all here, that makes this a perfect location," Mr. Munger said. "You've got the land to grow plants, the utilities, and space to build the greenhouses. It's really a good fit."

Eventually, he said, the remainder of the farm would be allowed to revert to a natural prairie and be maintained as a nature preserve.

Currently, the park district raises native plants at the Agricultural Incubator on State Rt. 582 in Middleton Township, but it has been outgrowing that space, Mr. Munger said.

The addition of the Knepper property brings the park district's total acreage to just over 1,000 acres, although that will soon be increasing even more.

Mr. Munger said the park district learned last week it will receive a $100,000 grant from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund to help buy 17.9 acres along the Beaver Creek southeast of Grand Rapids.

The district would contribute $50,000 to the purchase price while property owners, John and Linda Kane, would make a $50,000 donation.

Mr. Munger told the board the park district's wetland restoration fund had received a $15,000 boost from Wal-Mart, which was fined by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for cutting down trees and creating ruts in a wetland area near its store on South Main Street prior to obtaining a permit. Mr. Munger said the money will be used to enhance the wetlands the park district owns near Kenwood Elementary in Bowling Green.

Wal-Mart plans to build a $10 million super-center on land adjacent to its current store.

Heather Lauer, an OHIO EPA spokesman, said as part of the settlement, Wal-Mart agreed to buy 5.2 acres of wetland mitigation through the White Star Mitigation Bank in Sandusky County, which helps defray the cost of creating and maintaining wetlands.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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