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Quaker Ridge Arboretum and Nature Trails work begins

GROUND BROKEN — Celebrating the announcement of and groundbreaking for Quaker Ridge Arboretum and Nature Trails on Tuesday morning were, from left, Wendee Dodds, Ken Perkins, Jodee Verhovec, Duayne Wetherell, Mark Nelson, Irene Moore, David Maple and Aaron Dodds. -- Michael D. McElwain

RICHMOND — A Jefferson County farm first platted in 1808 by Robert Galloway will be the future home of an arboretum and nature trails.

With county commissioners, Salem Township trustees, board members of the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District and others in attendance, a groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday morning.

“Jefferson County for far too long has had the stigma of a land with shuttered steel mills, decaying industrial sites and other similar sites that are often visualized when talking about the communities of the Rust Belt,” JSWCD board member Mark Nelson said. “But today, we break ground on a new chapter for Jefferson County where restoration, conservation, preservation and education will guide the county into a new age.”

In 1809, the property at 5105 state Route 152 was acquired by David Watt, a member of the Quaker community and was held with the family for several years. At one time, the Watt farm was a side station on the Underground Railroad assisting the main stations run by fellow Quakers.

The farm remained intact and went through a series of owners when it was broken up and parceled off. Some 102 acres of the original 367-acre Watt farm remains as well as the barn, springhouse and milk house.

“Today we meet on this 102-acre property because of a man who wanted to preserve a piece of nature for future generations to enjoy the beauty of nature and to be inspired by the trill of the birds, the unfurling of leaves in the spring and peace and serenity of a babbling stream passing around your feet,” Nelson told those gathered.

“The first phase will be open on Oct. 10 with a ribbon-cutting and walk-through event,” Aaron Dodds, project manager and JSWCD member said. “It will be open and free to the public from dawn until dusk for them. The main trail will be cut in, and wildflowers will be planted.”

Other aspects of the development will come in stages, and much will depend on funding and other factors.

“We are hoping to have the majority of the phases open by 2023,” Dodds said.

Those planning out the phases say Quaker Ridge will be a place where trails will cross throughout the interior of the property allowing people of all ages an opportunity to interact with nature. The goal also is to make it a place for schools and universities to bring students to teach them and to let them experience nature.

“Most importantly, Quaker Ridge will be a place for families to relax and enjoy the bonds of nature and togetherness,” Nelson said.

Nelson added that the JSWCD was “given a great gift in this property” and thanked the county commissioners, Salem Township trustees and a $599,800 grant from Clean Ohio Green Space.

“It is through their support, hard work and efforts that we stand here today breaking the ground on a place that will benefit the citizens of the county for generations,” Nelson said.

According to Dodds, fundraisers, sponsorship opportunities and donations will be available as a way to generate future funding.

The initial bulk of the money was used for obtaining the property and for some infrastructure including a planned parking lot. Part of the grant will be used for planting native plant species that will host a variety of birds.

County Commissioner David Maple said it has been more than a year in the making.

“From a property standpoint, them (JSWCD) owning property is something we’ve talked about for quite a few years. “I think this strikes a good balance, and seeing them have an asset they can put to good use for folks in the county, I think it’s exciting. I’m really looking forward to the whole plan going into place.”

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