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Published: Tuesday, 5/2/2006

Lathrop House ravine alteration brings protests

The white Lathrop House overlooks a ravine that has been cleared to make way for a pond in Sylvania. The white Lathrop House overlooks a ravine that has been cleared to make way for a pond in Sylvania.

Stunned by the drastic changes to a ravine near the Lathrop House, Sylvania area residents last night asked city officials to find a way to restore the area that is key to the historical project.

After listening to several people who are upset by the changes in Harroun Community Park where the house, a stop along the Underground Railroad for slaves, is located, City Council agreed unanimously to refer the matter to council's parks and forestry committee to examine restoration of the ravine.

City officials plan to include Friends of Lathrop House; the Toledo Area Metroparks, and St. Joseph Catholic Church in the discussions.

In addition, council wants answers about the decision-making process that allowed the work to occur on the ravine and a pond in the park.

It is said slaves used the ravine, which runs to the east, as cover while they made their way to the house, then hid in the basement while escaping slavery and traveling to Canada.

Some area residents who visited Harroun Community Park yesterday said they were stunned to see a naked ravine.

Mayor Craig Stough said last night two separate projects are going on near the Lathrop House: One involves regrading around the house, and the other involves the pond built on park land.

Sylvania Service Director Jeffrey Ballmer said the pond, designed to facilitate drainage, was located in the park rather on church land because it was a more strategic location.

The mayor said though it might have been good engineering, putting the pond in the park was not sensitive to the historical significance of the site.

Some residents weren't pleased to hear that Art Landseadel, city forester, is thinking about using the pond as an attraction, perhaps as a place where youngsters could race sailboats.

Some in the audience gasped when he said he has an idea for putting a grist mill near the pond.

The mayor, who said he wasn't aware of the plans, said a meeting was held with Mr. Ballmer and the church when authorization was given for the pond. However, council wants details about how and when the decisions were made and who was involved in the process.

Sue McHugh, president of Friends of Lathrop House, said the shape and nature of the site has changed radically. The ravine, she told city officials, is no longer there.

She said it was upsetting that Friends of Lathrop House wasn't aware of plans that ended up damaging the ravine and hopes the damage can be undone.

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