Portage Park District rescued a unique Rootstown bog from development

Bird Family Bog Park and Preserve. Submitted photo

A rare bog in Rootstown has been saved by the Portage Park District.

The 23-acre bog is part of 171 acres the Park District recently acquired on Old Forge Road. The property will be named the Bird Family Bog Park and Preserve.

Biologists have referenced the bog in scholarly articles over the decades because it is a peatland, of which only 2% remain in Northeast Ohio, and it contains the only known occurrence in Ohio of an endangered bog plant.

The bog nearly met a much different fate, however. 

It was discovered in a real estate listing in July 2020, and “knowing that time was of the essence and the Park District couldn’t act as quickly, I contacted Joe Leslie, the director of real estate for West Creek Conservancy, on a Sunday and he worked to proceed with the deal,” said Christine Craycroft, executive director of the Park District. “The owner was excited about the potential to leave a legacy by conserving the land they had loved for years.”

West Creek Conservancy is a nonprofit that works to protect land for conservation and recreation. “I am very excited to see the Bird Family Bog property become part of the many wonderful parks and preserves,” Leslie said.

In addition to the 23-acre bog, the property includes about 40 acres of high-quality wetland, 3,000 feet of stream, about 60 acres of forest and a three-acre fishing pond. Restoration through invasive species management, reforestation and meadow restoration has already begun.

Conservation of the land not only preserves important habitats, it reduces the potential for flooding and protects water quality in the Breakneck Creek Watershed, source water for residents and the cities of Kent and Ravenna. The property is adjacent to other preserved property.

The property will remain a preserve (preserve properties are unopened to the public) during the restoration and planning process. Preliminary park plans call for about two miles of hiking trails, restrooms and other low-impact amenities, though development is a few years away.

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Tom Hardesty is a Portager sports columnist. He was formerly assistant sports editor at the Record-Courier and author of the book Glimpses of Heaven.