Saturday, August 11, 2001

Kelleys Island on auction block

Conservationists worry that habitat could be destroyed

The Associated Press

        KELLEYS ISLAND, Ohio — Some conservationists worry that an auction of land on this Lake Erie island will lead to habitat-destroying development.

        Brooks Jones Jr. and his brother, Tom Jones II, are selling part of the land their grandfather bought on Long Point in 1946. About 18 acres have been divided into four parcels.

        Kelleys Island is a popular tourist destination and site of hundreds of vacation homes. It provides a habitat for migrating birds and a threatened species of snake.

        A number of citizens have asked the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to bid on the property to preserve what open land remains.

        “It is our hope that there is found a way to protect this piece of real estate for the public to enjoy,” said department Director Sam Speck.

        In an interview with the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, he declined to reveal the state's plans on the auction, which is scheduled for Sept. 30 at Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron.

        Mr. Speck did say the state pays attention to parcels with Lake Erie access.

        Long Point is near an area that ODNR wants to designate as Ohio's first underwater preserve where divers can view shipwrecks. Also, its trees and shrubbery provide shelter for migrating birds, such as warblers.

        Its rocky shore is home for the non-venomous Lake Erie water snake, protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, which lists it as “threatened.” Fewer than 2,100 remain in the wild, and destroying their habitat can lead to fines or jail.

        The Jones family donated 21 acres in the early 1970s to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. A Columbus group bought 15 acres two years ago with plans to build homes.

        Few undeveloped spots remain on the 2,800-acre island. There are 108 year-round homes, up from 84 a decade ago, and 665 seasonal homes, up from 503.

        The government would support development on Long Point if plans included snake conservation, said Angela Moyer, an endangered species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

        The agency now is working with the buyers of the 15-acre site on the first such species conservation plan in Ohio.

        Bidding for 5.1 acres with a two-story, four-bedroom cedar home will start at $585,000.

        “We feel that the family trust and foundation is something that can actively benefit from the sale,” Brooks Jones said.

        The brothers have the right to refuse bids on the fourth parcel in case the family decides to keep it. The 4.7 acres at the tip of the point features a view of Cedar Point, Pelee Island, Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Island.

        “Prize locations like this aren't just bought and sold every day,” auctioneer Joel Dutton said.


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