Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Wildlife areas on property watch list

State treasurer wants closer look at state-owned
properties

Staff, Wire Reports

Columbus — The newly elected Ohio treasurer says the state has a
trove of underutilized and abandoned properties that it must
examine.

And among the top 10 are parts of three state wildlife
areas.

State Treasurer Richard Cordray said in early February that he
has undertaken an inventory of thousands of unused or underused
state properties that are ripe for community or private
development.

Cordray, a Democrat elected in November, said an initial
inventory of state-owned land in 20 counties has turned up 7,364
unused or little used state properties. He estimates about 446 of
the parcels could be desirable for developers.

Included in the “Top 10 list” on Cordray’s Web site at
www.ohiotreasurer.org are three properties managed by the DNR
Division of Wildlife. One 120-acre parcel, in Champaign County, is
part of the division’s rearing farm where it raises pheasants for
stocking. Another 108-acres in Geauga County is part of Auburn
Marsh Wildlife Area, while the third is a two-acre parcel in Lucas
County at the Mallard Club Marsh.

But, it was the Auburn Marsh area in particular that Dave
Risley, a Division of Wildlife administrator, found notable on the
list.

“Because this area is used for wetland and wetland management
(by the state), it would require significant mitigation (to convert
to any other use),” said Risley. “That area is so large that I
doubt if any other use would be permitted …

“That area is still being used,” he said. “There’s lots of
people up in that area. Waterfowl hunting (is popular) and there’s
a bit of deer hunting. Trapping, bird watching, those are part of
it, too.”

In all, the Auburn Marsh Wildlife Area comprises 462 acres of
public hunting and fishing property in northwest Ohio.

At the Champaign County parcel on the treasurer’s list, the
Division of Wildlife raises 15,000 pheasants annually that are
stocked for hunting at 27 wildlife areas across the state.

“That provides recreation to thousands of people,” Risley
said.

The Mallard Club Marsh Wildlife Area in Lucas County as recently
as 1995 was recipient of a wetland restoration grant from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. Twenty four acres of the property
are listed in Cordray’s top 10.

The initial parcels up for review could bring in more than $30
million, Cordray said, and the entire inventory statewide may be
worth $100 million.

“The state bureaucracy is a very big animal and things fall
through the cracks,” Cordray said. “Once they get forgotten about
and neglected, they’re forgotten and neglected. I’m saying let’s
bite the bullet and see if we can get these back to their highest
and best use.”

Obstacles exist to developing some of the properties, including
unaddressed environmental hazards. But Cordray said that, often,
the state has simply been lax.

“The state, in many of these cases, turns out to be an absentee
landlord who is contributing to blight just as much as any absent
private property owner,” he said.

Complex webs of ownership and multiple uses often contribute to
the properties being overlooked, Cordray said. His staff began its
inventory the day after he was elected, he said, using local and
county auditors’ records as well as original property deeds.

Among first 20 counties inventoried are Franklin, which includes
Columbus; Lucas, which includes Toledo; Hamilton, which includes
Cincinnati; and Stark, which includes Canton.

Cordray has told Gov. Ted Strickland, a fellow Democrat, that he
can complete the inventory statewide in two or three months, and
would then like to see a commission appointed that would spend 90
days gathering local input. After that, the state would begin
accepting both public and private proposals for developing the
land.

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