Sunday, July 22, 2001

Inspector's out to keep green acres

Anderson Twp. confronts destroyers of land parcels

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ANDERSON TOWNSHIP — Suzanne Clingman moves through the dark, mature forest with a clipboard in hand, topographic map attached, a book pack at her side, compass, small pair of binoculars.

        It is a deep woods that sprawls for 52 acres, and Ms. Clingman follows a deer trail that has been widened over the years by foot traffic. She is out to check the boundaries of this parcel of green space in a southwestern pocket of the township, make note of any interesting natural occurrences or botanical oddities.

        But more to the point she is checking on what township officials call encroachments — people coming in and disturbing the environment by cutting firewood, clearing trees or creating dirt bike trails, complete with ramps and jumps.

        “Essentially it's the residents' property,” said Ms. Clingman, as she stood by a giant oak that towered over a carpet of May apple. “They paid for it.”

        This parcel of land is one of 54 totaling more than 500 acres that the township has acquired over the past 10 years. Since residents in the township passed a levy in 1991 to purchase green space, $3 million has been spent buying parcels of undeveloped land.

        It represents patches of green on a quilt of suburban development, where the population of 44,000 has jumped by almost 10 percent in the last 10 years.

        A month ago the township hired Ms. Clingman on a part-time basis as its green space inspector. Three days a week she packs up and heads out to inspect the township's parcels, which range in size from an acre and more than 100 acres. She will either follow trails, or move through dense undergrowth, cross deep ravines and immerse herself in forest.

        Either through ignorance or indifference, people have been encroaching on the green space. Officials have noticed damage on four or five parcels. The township is not inclined to prosecute violators, preferring to stop it or get the violator to pay for any restoration.

        Ms. Clingman has inspected more than a half-dozen parcels, representing about 100 acres. Most have been in decent to pristine shape.

        “We recognized that to keep on top of these things and minimize the damage we needed to have somebody go out on a regular basis and inspect it,” said Ron Edgerton, chairman of the green space advisory committee. “This is green space. The land is to be left in its natural state. You can walk on it, you can enjoy it, but you are not to damage it in any way.”

        Ms. Clingman is encouraged by what she has found. “I have a feeling they're going to come out of this more positive than negative,” she said.

        Signs have gone up on some of the parcels, asking people to call the township if they see any damage.

        “The thing that attracts people to Anderson is the fact that we have so much green area,” said Russ Jackson, a township trustee. “The goal here is to keep it green.”


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