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Published: Monday, 10/25/2010

Toledo Metroparks call timeout on Oak Openings cleanup

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Metroparks of the Toledo Area is calling a temporary timeout on the massive cleanup underway inside its venerable Oak Openings Preserve Metropark until it figures out a better game plan for monitoring the logging operator who's been hired to do it.

Don Rettig, a longtime area resident and employee of the park district who became its director 18 months ago, announced to a standing-room-only crowd of 135 people inside the preserve's lodge on Monday night that he ordered logging crews to stop cutting that day until he develops a more viable plan to supervise them.

The crews, mostly from southern Ohio, have been hired to cut thousands of trees damaged by the June 5 tornado that swept through the area.

They are expected to be removing debris from the Oak Openings park through at least the end of 2010, possibly through next spring. They are scheduled to work Mondays through Thursdays.

Although they could be back on the job in a matter of days, Mr. Rettig — in response to concerns raised by a number of southwestern Lucas County residents — said he decided the park district should step back and assess the situation to make sure there is no misunderstanding.

The park is west of Toledo Express Airport, in the heart of northwest Ohio's historic and ecologically rare Oak Openings region. With some 4,000 acres, the Oak Openings preserve is larger than all other Lucas County metroparks combined — a place where forested wetlands meet a sandy oak savanna. It has more rare plants and animals than anywhere in Ohio.

Residents in the vicinity of it have admitted to being uneasy about how far the operation might go since the crews arrived a little more than a week ago. It was unclear how much manpower the park district was investing in supervising them and in identifying healthy trees that should be saved.

“We could have done better, certainly on the communication end of this project,” Mr. Rettig told the crowd, which spent at least a couple of hours expressing concerns.

Several people implored their neighbors to watch the loggers and the park district to hold them accountable to their word. Some questioned why more oak trees didn't have yellow ribbons around them to designate them as off limits. Officials said it was simply impractical to put ribbons around every oak tree to be saved, leaving it up to the discretion of logging crews.



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