BOWLING GREEN - Introducing residents to what will be the first park jointly owned and managed by Bowling Green and Wood County begins with familiarizing them with the location.
"It's the field behind Big Lots," Michelle Grigore, city parks and recreation director, said with a laugh. "We don't think that's a good name for a park, but a lot of people have no idea what we're talking about unless we say the field behind Big Lots."
City park officials, along with officials of the Wood County Park District, are in the process of asking the public what they would like at the nearly 66-acre site on the city's south side. Ideas were solicited at a public forum in June, and a second meeting is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Simpson Building at Conneaut Avenue and Wintergarden Road.
Neil Munger, director of the Wood County Park District, said a proposed plan for the land will be presented by Jim Speck, park planning consultant, and alternatives discussed. Because much of the acreage is wetlands, options for development are limited.
"We're asking the public, 'Do you want trails in there? Do you want nothing? Do you want it left alone?' All with the understanding that there's not a lot we can do," Mr. Munger said.
He said the portion of land the park district acquired with Clean Ohio Greenspace funds must be maintained as a natural area, although trails, picnic shelters, restrooms, and parking areas are permissible.
Mr. Munger and Ms. Grigore envision the park as a great place for education.
The northern edge of the property backs up to both Kenwood Elementary School and the Montessori School of Bowling Green.
"We hope to engage the schools," Ms. Grigore said.
"We've talked about representing a portion of the Great Black Swamp and trying to teach people about our natural heritage and how important those wetlands areas are for stormwater management."
The city's Board of Public Utilities purchased a portion of the property, just under 13 acres, from the county park district in 2001 to separate storm water that the Environmental Protection Agency said no longer could flow into sanitary sewers.
The park district had purchased nearly 38 acres at that time with the understanding it would sell the northern portion to the city.
Mr. Munger said the park district had wanted the land that backed up to its popular Slippery Elm Trail, a hiking-biking trail that extends from the Montessori School in Bowling Green to North Baltimore.
In 2003, the park district used a Clean Ohio Greenspace grant to help it buy just under 28 acres that were next to the other parcel.
Mr. Munger said all the land had been farmed until the late 1990s, but it has since grown into a natural area with native grasses and trees.
"It's already got a good foothold as far as a wetland," he said.
Mr. Munger said that once a master plan is developed for the property, the city and the park district will look at how those plans fit into their budgets and go from there.
"This is the first time we've worked together on something like this, and we'll be working out a lot of the details as we go," he said.
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