PUT-IN-BAY TOWNSHIP -- Three agencies have joined to preserve 9.1 acres of South Bass Island ( Put in Bay) shoreline containing critical habitat for the endangered Lake Erie Water Snake and migratory birds.
The Western Reserve Land Conservancy of Novelty, Ohio, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Put-in-Bay Township Park District plan to buy the land at the island's eastern point for $2.6 million, said Mark Skowronski, Western Reserve spokesman.
Their coalition will turn the area into East Point Nature Preserve, a public park that should include walking trails, Skowronski said.
"It's a rare opportunity," he said. "Land is a finite resource, especially on islands. South Bass Island has had a lot of development and not a lot of conservation."
The purchase could help take the Lake Erie Water Snake off the federal list of threatened species and the Ohio Endangered Species List, said Lisa Brohl a Put-in-Bay Park District commissioner. South Bass Island is the only Lake Erie island that has not set aside rocky shoreline the snakes use for habitat, Brohl said.
Megan Seymour, U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist; Carolyn Caldwell, ODNR program administrator for management and research; and researcher Kristin Stanford, who studies the snakes on South Bass Island, were not available for comment Friday.
The coalition received a $1.8 million federal grant with the help of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, that will cover 70 percent of the purchase cost, Skowronski said. State grants, Western Reserve's contributions and donations to the Lake Erie Islands Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy also are expected to help cover the cost, he said.
But the agencies still need $253,000 to complete the land purchase from Cleveland-area resident Tony Valore, he said. Western Reserve is raising funds for the remaining sum.
"We're very excited because we've been working on this for seven years," said Brohl, who also is chairwoman of the Lake Erie Islands Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy. "This is a project that a lot of people have been wanting to see come together for a while."
After the coalition buys the land, the Put-in-Bay Township Park District -- which formed in November mainly for this project -- will take over its ownership, Brohl said.
"We've got a lot of parks on the island, but they're all mowed and maintained," she said. "So this will be little different. It'll be a great place for people to walk the natural shoreline."
Because the area is on the island's tip, it is one of the best places to view migrating song birds, warblers and waterfowl in the spring and fall, she said. Although bald eagles do not nest there, they have been spotted in the area, she said.
Put-in-Bay is a popular vacation spot just 2 miles offshore of mainland Northwest Ohio in Lake Erie. While "Put-in-Bay" is technically the name of the village on South Bass Island, the name commonly is inadvertently used to refer to the entire island. A summer resort since the mid-1800's, the village can be considered the hub of tourism among the Lake Erie Islands, with its numerous taverns, wineries, restaurants, waterfront condos, rental homes, and hotels.