More than 4,000 acres opened to public

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

Outdoor sportsmen and enthusiasts have more than 4,000 reasons to celebrate.

The land has been opened to the public for hunting, fishing, bird-watching and other non-motorized recreation.

The land, five miles south of Oak Hill, spread between Lawrence and Gallia counties was dedicated as a forest wildlife area by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wednesday morning at the scenic parking area overlooking the land.

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The 4,100 acres was formerly owned by Mead Paper but was purchased by non-profit group The Nature Conservancy, which has opened it up for public use.

The designation as a forest wildlife area means that the land will be overseen by ODNR officials.

&#8221Basically it means that the Division of Wildlife will be the caretakers of the property, we'll help post signs, we'll maintain the gates, the parking area, we'll provide law enforcement for the area,“ said James A. Marshall, District 4 Manage for the ODNR Division of Wildlife. &#8221We'll also be stocking ponds with fish and providing maps, those sorts of things.“

The land has something for all sorts of sportsmen, it is even host to nine ponds created by beaver activity or clay or coal mining.

Around 25 percent of the area has is reclaimed strip mine, creating grasslands which presents some unique opportunities for wildlife watchers, including more chances to see game animals and some songbirds.

Richard Shank, executive director of the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, says that opening up the land is an important step in the consolidation of the area's forest land.

&#8221In Ohio, we've got all this fragmented forest land,“ Shank said. &#8221People want to come out and go hunting and know that they're not going to get in trouble, that they're on public hunting land, that they can walk for miles and not be venturing on to private property. If you look at that map up there, it fits perfectly into what is already Wayne National Forest land.“

Shank said that the land fits so well into the WNF that his group's long-term goal is to get the 4,100 acres in the hands of the Wayne.

&#8221Ultimately, we want to see this land turned over to them, in fact we're starting that process this year,“ Shank said. &#8221To consolidate this land is just one more step in getting the Wayne consolidated into a block of land so you can have that advantage of going out and knowing that all the land you're seeing around you is public access.“

The land, most easily accessed via State Route 93 and Blackfork-Firebrick and Brady roads, is open to the public now. There is no charge to use the land. More information is available by calling the Wildlife District 4 office at (740) 589-9930.