Great Parks of Hamilton County grew by 158 acres last year, bringing its total acreage to 17,666. The park district says that makes it the county's largest land holder.
Much of the additional land was purchased with funds from the Green Space Conservation Program, part of the Clean Ohio Fund.
"The Clean Ohio Fund allows you to apply for the state funding," says Great Parks CEO Jack Sutton. "Up to 75 percent of the total cost if you are eligible can be funded through the Clean Ohio conservation program."
That program enabled the park district to grow by roughly the same amount each year over the last 10 years, Sutton says, adding that increasing Great Parks holdings is about preserving natural resources.
Two of the larger acquisitions include 47 acres next to Mitchell Memorial Forest and 57 acres adjoining Oak Glen Nature Preserve in Colerain Township.
The 57 acres is contiguous to the preserve and used to belong to the Welch Sand and Gravel Company.
"It's property that had only been mined very slightly over the years so it's mostly undisturbed," Sutton says. "And Jim Welch sold that [to us] at a bargain sale so we were able to leverage the state funds very effectively."
When property neighboring Mitchell Memorial Forest became available, Great Parks was able to use money set aside by William Morris Mitchell himself.
"He left us a fund that grew over time and all the property at Mitchell Memorial Forest was purchased with Mitchell money and outside grants, and his original gift of 400 to 500 acres is now well over 1,500 acres," Sutton reports.
One of the district's smaller parks is getting a size boost. Great Parks acquired approximately two acres adjoining Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve in Colerain Township. The land was previously owned by two brothers, Robert and Clarence Arand, who lived next door to one another for more than 60 years, Great Parks says.
Clarence Arand's daughter, Donna Bonnet, says the Arand family purchased their property from Ada Farbach, so she's pleased to see the land is rejoining the former Farbach homestead.
"This will allow us to go back and enjoy the land any time we want, even with our children and grandchildren," Bonnet says in a statement. "We miss the time we spent there together, but we know that having this land with the parks will make my dad and uncle happy."