Innovative Partnership Will Create Living Laboratory

The Conservancy’s newest conservation project will protect a parcel of land that was threatened by development and, instead, create a living laboratory for students at Otsego schools to explore and supplement their classroom learning.  

The related Shank and Fox families have owned the 16-acre property across the street from Otsego K-12 schools for generations. When they first thought to sell it, the family assumed the land’s highest use would be a residential subdivision. Then they started to learn more about the value of the land as a natural space and educational resource.

Rob Krain, executive director of the Black Swamp Conservancy, was invited out to walk the property. He saw a lot of potential in a small package – both for the land and for a unique partnership. We engaged our partners at ODNR and began discussions with the school district and the local community. The result is an agreement that will transfer the property to the Conservancy for habitat restoration, and then permanently to Otsego Schools for use as an outdoor classroom.

The property, which is bound on the northeast by the main branch of Tontogany Creek, drains to the Maumee River near Missionary Island Wildlife Area at Grand Rapids. This location along the creek means that restoration will have an impact on the water quality of the Maumee River and ultimately Lake Erie.

Realtor Steve Powell represents the family and says that they are excited about the conservation legacy they are helping to create. While the family knows they won’t make as much money as they would if they had sold to a builder, they are very pleased to be creating a permanent natural asset for the school.

For their part, the school staff and faculty are already envisioning using the property for biological science classes as well as art and writing classes. They also plan to retain up to an acre for the Future Farmers of America, which will help to demonstrate to students the mutually beneficial relationship that agriculture can have with the health of the soil and downstream water quality.

Forthcoming restoration plans will be developed collectively with Otsego Schools, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Conservancy. Discussions are just getting underway.

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Help us celebrate our region’s wild places and support future conservation and restoration projects.

Join us for a yummy backyard BBQ dinner and groove to the sounds of musical guest Joshua Davis.