Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Reforestation planned for preserves hit by tornado

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONTGOMERY — A comprehensive reforestation plan has been developed for two biologically and geologically significant preserves damaged by the April 9 tornado.

        The city's Parks and Recreation Commission on Monday announced it has approved the plan to address the damage at the city's Johnson Nature Preserve and the state-owned Hazelwood Botanical Preserve, maintained by the University of Cincinnati (UC).

        The two preserves abut each other near Deerfield and Cornell roads in the northern part of the community.

        “We think both of these preserves need to be rehabilitated because each has an effect on the other. These are among the most rare pieces of (forested) property in the United States,” said Fred Melcher, chairman of the parks and recreation commission.

        The combined 73-acre tract is biologically undisturbed property in a suburban metropolitan community with rare foliage and wildlife brought to the site thousands of years ago by advancing and retreating glaciers, officials said.

        Mr. Melcher said the commission plans to develop a detailed budget and then apply for an Ohio Nature Works Grant by July 1. Preliminary estimates put the cost at between $8,000 and $12,000.

Funding sought
        If successful, the Nature Works Grant — a combination of federal and state funding — requires that the city contribute 20 percent of the approved amount of the grant, Mr. Melcher said.

        Next, the plan will be submitted to UC for approval. Jim Tucker, the university's vice president of administrative services, who has been working with Montgomery officials, said UC officials are reviewing the information from the parks and recreation commission and will continue to work cooperatively toward the reforestation and restoration.

        The Hazelwood preserve was first studied in the 1920s when the significant species were discovered. A swamp area and two terraces in the preserve were created during the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago, officials said. The preserve has been given Federal Natural Landmark status.

Council to review plan
        After UC officials review the plan, Mr. Melcher said, it will be presented to city council for approval.

        The grant “will enable us to get funding for mature replacement trees for the nature areas,” said Donald A. Jenner, parks and recreation commission secretary. Ideally, trees will be planted this fall.

        The tornado severely damaged about 40 arces of the Hazelwood tract and almost all of the 8-acre Johnson preserve. Also, about three miles of hillsides along the valley on either side of, and through, the area were heavily damaged.

        “We all recognize that a long-range regeneration plan ... will take hundreds of years to complete — but all involved fully realize that the long-term result is worth the long-term effort,” Mr. Melcher said.

        Among key issues addressed in the plan are reforestation, prevention of unwanted growth (such an honeysuckle), safety, fire prevention, erosion control, appearance, access and wildlife habitat.

        The plan calls for creation of a firebreak — a ring of land between the preserves and the residential development that surrounds them. In that area, splintered tree trunks, debris, brush and other possible fire hazards will be removed.

        Also, the plan calls for larger trees to be planted along the residential borders to create a buffer or “sight break” of trees separating the homes from the preserves. Homeowners also may purchase trees as part of the plan at a discount rate.


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