Sunday, October 15, 2000

Prairie could return

State aims to add to 3 patches

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

        PLAIN CITY, Ohio — A quarter-acre of tallgrass prairie stands out amid acres of farmland, providing as much a reminder of west-central Ohio's history as the weather-worn gravestones it covers.

        “It looks like a little colorful postage stamp from up above,” Steven Flint, a riverkeeper with The Nature Conservancy, said as he walked through The Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve.

        About 100 people a month visit the Smith Cemetery and a similar preserve the state manages down the road in Madison County, said Ron Demmy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. ODNR manages a third preserve in Union County.

        The three small patches are the only remaining native prairie in what once was known as known the Darby Plains. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to create a wildlife refuge and restore acres of farmland back to its original prairie habitat in the area, which includes the Big Darby Creek and its main tributary, the Little Darby Creek. At Smith Cemetery, chest-high grasses and clumps of bright blooms cover gravestones dating to the 1820s and shelter native prairie animals such as badgers, foxes and birds. Darby Township Trustees dedicated the cemetery as a state nature preserve in 1982.


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