If horses ever will have the run of a new high-end planned community in Lake County’s Kirtland Hills Village, then American bald eagles will continue to soar above the proposed equine-related project.
In fact, the eagles are all ready homesteaders on a large piece of private property located within the village, edged on the north by Interstate 90, Ohio Route 615 on the west, and Chillicothe Road to the south and east as the pie-slice-shaped parcel curves back up toward the interstate.
The property is generally and locally known as the Jerome T. Osborne Sr. horse farm; a holding right out of a Kentucky thoroughbred estate. Nestled in about the center of the property is a copse of tall trees including one on the grove’s western fringe that contains a several-year-old American bald eagle nest.
Some concerns had been expressed to state and federal wildlife officials regarding the future of the nest and its support tree, given the scope of an ambitious proposal called the “Equestrian Dream.” This planned community – which still must jump through its own set of bureaucratic hoops before becoming a reality – could feature 12 five-acre home sites (the minimum required by the upscale Kirtland Hills Village code), built along Chillicothe Road.
Along with the lots and any homes the development would feature a 30-acre “common area” where property owners could ride their horses.
Equestrian Dream is the brain child of Richard Osborne Sr., a well-known Northeast Ohio developer and the son of the late Jerome T. Osborne Sr.
Just where the American bald eagle nest and its support tree fits in any future development plans will require meeting strict federal guidelines. After all, the current eagle residents have legal squatters’ rights to the tree and its nest.
Consequently, the laws are very specific as to what can and cannot be done to a nest and any supporting structure as well as any disturbances within specified federal standards, says Deanne Endrizzi, avian biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Region.
Endrizzi said that the Service requires an extensive permitting vetting process to help ensure that eagle nests and whatever structure that supports them are protected – a condition that also requires monitoring and cooperation on the part of state fish and game agencies. In this case that would be the Ohio Division of Wildlife, which is aware of the Osborne Farm eagle nest but much less so regarding the Equestrian Dream proposal.
“It is important to remember that eagle nest are protected year-round whether they are occupied or not,” Endrizzi said.
“One of the good things for the nest,” Endrizzi said also, is the proposal’s plans call for five-acre lots so that aspect should help in not crowding too close to the eagle nest.
“But permits are still needed and we wouldn’t do that until any actual building begins,” Endrizzi said.
Not surprisingly how both federal and state officials remain firmly committed to eagle protection is borne out by the fact that even though the species is no longer listed as endangered it remains the nation’s symbol. The species thus is protected under the federal government’s Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act’s umbrella.
And Ohio stands firmly committed to the care and future of the eagle in the state. For this year the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s eagle nest survey estimated that Ohio had 221 American bald eagle nests statewide and which were believed to have produced a minimum of 312 eaglets.
At least seven of those nests were/are located in Lake County, too.
“And there could be more,” said Wildlife Division communications manager John Windau.
More or less still demands that people cannot simply skip the law and do as they wish when it comes to building near an eagle’s nest. Rules and rules and they are intended to help keep the American bald eagle from returning to the Endangered Species list.
Even so, Endrizzi says that in rare circumstances the Service will issue a permit that would allow a person to cut down a tree or remove a nest. However, such allowances are typically awarded only if the structure or nest is threatening to harm something like an existing home or people, Endrizzi said.
“We try and work closely with any property owner,” Endrizzi said.
And Kirtland Hills officials not only are going to take a close look at the Equestrian Dream proposal they also want to keep an eye out for the eagle nest. After all, the birds that occupy it are village residents as well, says the community's village council president Glenn Schwaller.
“Certainly this is something that we should take note of, and it’s really nice to see how the eagle has made a comeback,” Schwaller said.
As for the Osborne clan, the developer’s son – Richard Osborne Jr. - said he has brought the matter of the eagle nest to the attention of his father and likewise believes that the eagle nest will get attention should the proposal move forward.
“I have brought your concerns to my father whom is working on this project,” Richard Osborne Jr. said in an email exchange on the subject.
“I am concerned as well and will make sure any appropriate provision will take place related to the nest's protection. It is truly amazing to have American bald eagles soaring above our area and I will make sure your concerns are addressed.”
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn