KELLEYS ISLAND, Ohio - The opportunity to buy 33 acres on an island known as an attractive site for birds, birders, and developers opens up at the end of the month when the hammer falls in an auction.
A Detroit family has owned the undeveloped property for 64 years. But Joel Dutton, the auctioneer who is handling the sale on July 29, said the advanced ages of the four surviving sons and daughters of the owner spurred the choice to part with the land.
Walter Gaisieski, who worked in an area automotive factory, bought the property in 1942 and used it for camping. The island is four miles north of the Marblehead mainland.
He bequeathed it to his children, who have decided to sell, Mr. Dutton said.
"They never really built on it," Mr. Dutton said from his office in Navarre, Ohio. "They just haven't really used it."
The undeveloped land and its size appeals to conservationists.
Christopher Knopf, director of the Ohio office of the Trust for Public Lands, a land conservation group, said the sale presents an opportunity to provide more open space.
"The trust will be looking into it," he said.
The trust is working with the city of Port Clinton to buy nearly 4 acres of shoreland east of the city to restore its wetlands.
Although there's no minimum starting bid, the value of similar property on Kelleys Island could mean a hefty price. The auction will be conducted at Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron, Ohio.
According to Firelands Real Estate listings, 26 vacant lots are listed for sale on the island. Asking prices begin at $41,900 for a one-third acre wooded lot with beach privileges. Waterfront property begins at $329,000 for three-quarters of an acre.
The 33 acres are divided into 11 parcels, with some on the water and the rest inland near the airport.
Kelleys Island Mayor Rob Quinn said the property had been listed through a real estate agent for about six months. He predicts some interest, based on the lack of a reserve, or minimum bid.
"There's going to be lot of people looking at it, looking to see if it's going to be a bargain," Mr. Quinn said.
The island government, however, is not interested in getting into a bidding war for the land, even though several parcels are adjacent to the village-owned airport.
"We're just not in a cash position," the mayor said.
Pat Hayes, president of the Kelleys Island Audubon Club, said the land could potentially be used to expand land set aside for wildlife.
He said Kelleys Island is a natural stopover for migrating birds and for the bird watchers.
"It would give us more places to hang out," he said. "That would make a very nice park."
Sales of large tracks of island land are unusual, with the most publicized purchases made in recent years involving the state of Ohio.
Mr. Dutton said he's sold smaller parcels on Rattlesnake Island and Long Point on Kelleys Island. In a 2004 auction he sold three parcels totaling 20 acres for $1.7 million.
He said it's difficult to estimate how much the 33 acres will yield for the Gaisieski family, adding that an auction helps establish a realistic value.
"The value of it is so arbitrary," he said.
In 2004, the state of Ohio purchased 589 acres of North Bass Island, or 87 percent of the land, for $17.4 million.
The state bought most of North Bass two years ago, and in 2001 it paid $6.75 million for 124 acres of the former Lonz Winery on Middle Bass Island for use as a state park.
Mayor Quinn said the fragmented nature of the Gaisieski property would make it less appealing for an entity such as the state or even the island itself to purchase for a park.41.59606 -82.72524