Mosquito Creek extension project underway

HOWLAND — Howland Township has submitted an application for a Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation Grant to purchase and protect 120 acres of land in the Mosquito Creek watershed.

According to Kim Mascarella, planning director for the Howland Zoning Board, applying for the grant is one step of the Mosquito Creek Extension Project, a plan focused on the protection of resources in the township.

The property in question lies north of North River Road and east of state Route 82, according to Mascarella, and is adjacent to land already owned and preserved by the township. Currently, the four parcels that make up the land Howland hopes to purchase are privately owned by three different entities.

“It’s an important part of the puzzle in the Mosquito Creek watershed,” said Mascarella.

Howland has applied for $167,000, Mascarella said, most of which will be used to purchase the land.

The Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation agency, has partnered with the township to write the grant.

“One of the services we provide to the local community is our grant-writing expertise,” said Alex Czayka, senior vice president for Conservation Transactions at the land conservancy. According to Czayka, the Green Space Conservation Fund, which was established in 2000, is one they use regularly to secure and protect land.

If Howland is awarded the grant and is able to purchase the land, Western Reserve will place a conservation easement on the deed of the property. According to Czayka, the easement will prevent any further sub-development of the land.

Western Reserve will be responsible for visiting the property once a year to make sure it remains properly conserved, said Czayka. This means protecting the water quality and natural habitats on the property.

“It contains a heron rookery,” said Czayka, noting dozens of the birds can be found nesting in the trees. “You don’t just see a heron rookery in any old pond.”

Another section of wetlands in the Mosquito Creek corridor fell under heavy debate in December when the Cafaro Company’s plans to build a northward expansion of the Eastwood Mall, which would fill 16 acres of wetlands, came into the public eye.

According to Cafaro spokesperson Joe Bell, the company is in the process of responding to technical questions from the Ohio EPA regarding the initial application, which was submitted in July. A ruling on the permit is expected sometime this spring, he said.

Czayka said the move to purchase a section of Mosquito Creek is “not a response to that whatsoever.

“We do proactive conservation. Whether or not that was happening, we would still approach this corridor and these land owners to conserve this land,” said Czayka.

There are currently no plans to put trails on the land, which is wet most of the year, said Mascarella, but as township property the space would be public and open to residents. “We encourage the public to explore the Mosquito Creek Corridor,” said Mascarella.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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