Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Milford nature park pursued

Foundation seeks to purchase land

By Jon Gambrell
Enquirer contributor

MILFORD - Looking out over the former soybean field, Andy Dickerson can already see trails winding through the growing wild grasses, trees along the riverbank and people walking through the future Valley View Park.

But the park is far from complete as those involved await possible grant money from the state.

The Valley View Foundation is trying to purchase 151 acres from the city of Milford to conserve the land and make the area a passive recreation site.

The site is the largest undeveloped tract of land in Milford. It sits along the city's southern border with the Little Miami River, adjacent to Terrace Park Country Club. The foundation is leasing the property with an exclusive option to purchase it for $2.5 million.

So far, the foundation has come up with some funding, but is waiting to find out if it received a grant from the Clean Ohio Fund, a $400 million program to preserve green space.

"Getting the Clean Ohio funding would enable us to go to the city of Milford and buy the property," Dickerson said.

City Manager Loretta Rokey said earlier plans for the site involved developing a high-density residential area of roughly 300 houses. After that plan fell through, the city ended up buying the entire parcel of land to build a new elementary school.

When confronted with the possibility of having to slowly sell away parcels, the Valley View Foundation was formed, and offered to purchase the land.

But Dickerson fears that if the foundation doesn't get the Clean Ohio funding, the project will be in jeopardy.

The Valley View Foundation is competing for $2.2 million in grants with nine other projects in the district that includes Butler, Warren, Clermont and Clinton counties.

The decision on which projects make the initial cut will come in June. After that, the projects are passed along to the state for final approval.

Pending approval of the grant, Dickerson wants to seed the area with Southwest Ohio wild grass and begin placing willows along the riverbank to shore it up.

From there, Dickerson envisions trails along the property and the opportunity for a nature center the new elementary school can use.

Further down the line, Dickerson hopes to renovate the two barns on the property, though he said that would be costly.

But for now, all Dickerson can do is wait.

"This is a part of local heritage," he said, holding onto a wooden beam inside of a barn. "I'd hate to see it go."

E-mail jgambrell@fuse.net

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