Wooster Memorial Park has chance to add more land

Wooster Memorial Park has chance to add more land

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Wooster Memorial Park — known to many longtime residents as Spangler Park — has an opportunity to expand. Community contributions are needed to meet the purchase price of the available land.

The park, founded in 1963 with a donation of 70 acres, has since grown to 422 acres with just over 11 miles of hiking trails including the 1-mile ADA-compliant trail in the Kenwood Acres portion of the park.

Twenty-two years ago, a group of local citizens created the Friends of Wooster Memorial Park to help preserve and protect the gift of Wooster Memorial Park given to the City of Wooster by Paul Spangler. At that time the park was 254 acres.

Since then, with Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation Program funds, various other grants, local contributions, a high level of volunteerism and support of the community, the park has grown to a high-quality natural recreation area. Through the joint efforts of the city, FWMP and Killbuck Watershed Land Trust, a conservation easement ensures the park will remain a natural recreation area in perpetuity.

The Lehr Road property that adjoins the park's northern boundary is available and will add over 39 acres, expanding the largest forested public natural area in Wayne County. The addition hosts a mix of upland forest, pine plantations and homestead. Situated above Little Killbuck Creek, the site is a Certified Ohio Tree Farm with a diversity of native flora and fauna.

"The current property owners contacted us in spring 2021 with their interest in selling their property for addition to the park," said Catherine Herms, director at large for the Friends of Wooster Memorial Park. "The parcel is located adjacent to the northern border of the park and consists of native hardwood forests like in the park, along with some stands of planted pine. There are also a few acres of yard surrounding a house and pole barn."

The nonprofit Friends of Wooster Memorial Park and the city manage the park.

"Together, along with the city, we manage the park trails and grounds, provide monthly educational events for the community, and support and conduct research to learn more about our natural environment," FWMP President Shelley Schrier said.

The group currently has 184 members, and as of June 9, FWMP volunteers have logged more than 368 hours. New members are always welcome.

FWMP has been given the opportunity to purchase the Lehr Road parcel. The purchase price of the new property is $570,000.

"The land will be used as a natural expansion of the park and the trails," Schrier said.

Funds obtained from the Clean Ohio funds, Killbuck Watershed Land Trust and the Noble Foundation total $550,000. In conjunction with the Wayne County Community Foundation, the FWMP is conducting a capital campaign to raise the remaining $20,000.

"We have just over $13,500, thanks to the generosity of the Wooster community," Schrier said. "Individuals have contributed anything from $20-$2,000. Any amount will help us reach our goal."

Donors can become a Spring Beauty for $20, Hepatica for $50, Violet for $100, Trout Lily for $500, Wild Phlox for $1,000 or Trillium for $5,000. Donate online at www.friendsofwmp.com/ or mail a check to the Wayne County Community Foundation, 517 N. Market St., Wooster, OH 44691. Write "FWMP Lehr Road Fund" in memo.

In addition to asking for contributions for the land purchase, FWMP is currently collecting names of volunteers to help with park cleanup from the recent storms of June 14. Hikers are cautioned that other than the Kenwood Acres paved trails, the park is closed.

After assessing and surveying the park, a professional service was hired to determine the extent of the damage and begin the cleanup process. Once the professional team has finished its service, volunteers will help clear smaller debris, help to rebuild and repair trails, and possibly build a bypass trail after the tree removal is complete.

"The damage is extensive with many sections of trail impassible," Schrier said. "It is (currently) dangerous to hike in the park."

For some stretches of trail in the park, according to Herms, there are so many trees down that the board is considering rerouting those sections.

"In the days after the storm, some FWMP board members and volunteers spent a few days mapping the trees that fell across the trails," she said. "We mapped over 220 trail blockages. Only about half of these blockages are caused by one or two trees across the trail. The remainder of blockages involve 5, 10 or more trees down over the trail and require professional tree crews for clearing. In addition to the trees that fell along the trails, there are thousands of trees down throughout the rest of the park."

There are currently 50 individuals who have signed up as volunteers for the cleanup, and more are encouraged to join them by signing up online.

Wooster Memorial Park is located in Wooster at 5197 Silver Road. The park closes 30 minutes after sundown, and dogs must be on leashes.

For more information regarding donating or volunteering, email the Friends of Wooster Memorial Park at friendswmp@gmail.com or go to its website at www.friendsofwmp.com.

To become a member of FWMP for $10 per year, download the online form at www.friendsofwmp.com/membership and mail with check or cash to Friends of Wooster Memorial Park, P.O. Box 1776, Wooster, OH 44691. You also can find FWMP on Facebook.

Members of the FWMP board are available to speak on a variety of topics. For more information call Schrier at 330-234-3157.