Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lake Metroparks spends $900,000 for three land buys; steelheaders to benefit

Lake Metroparks is going to make life easier for Northeast Ohio steelhead anglers.

The agency's three park commissioners agreed at their meeting this evening to spend $900,000 in order to increase the parks system's land holdings with a trio of purchases, two of which will either increase fishing opportunities or better allow for access along the immensely popular Grand River watershed.

Among the buys is a 35-acre parcel that will dovetail into the parks system's existing 59-acre Beaty Landing in Painesville City and hard-pressed to Painesville Township. This chunk of real estate abuts the Grand River in a location long coveted by steelhead – and steelhead anglers.

This parcel is costing the agency $410,000 with the money already having been pigeonholed by the parks system's three commissioners.

Popular in autumn with anglers testing the waters for the first migrant trout of the season, the area really comes into its own during late winter and early spring. That is when the steelhead set up housekeeping by building their spawning sites, called “redds.”

Frequently when the river's flow level and clarity are prime, steelheaders can actually sight fish for the trout; definitely the most eagerly sought-after method for many fly-rod-equipped anglers.

“The property constitutes the rest of the oxbow floodplain and consists of that land east of what we now own,” said Paul Palagyi, the parks system's executive director. “Unfortunately for a lot of folks who'd like to fish Beaty Landing or just go for a walk, there is the steep hill that people have to negotiate now.”

With the new add-on park visitors will be able to access the flood plain at river level without becoming a mountaineer to do it, Palagyi said.

“We've also discussed partnering with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, maybe putting in a paddlesport landing,” Palagyi said.
“That way someone wanting to take a short float can stop at Painesville Recreation Park just downstream or make a longer day of it and paddle to our Grand River Landing boat launch and go through some of the best steelhead fishing holes in the lower Grand River.”

Further up the Grand River in Madison Township and then a jaunt into Mill Creek valley leads one to the next purchase. This one consists of 42 acres and cost $400,000 with the money already built into the federal budget and set aside there by now-retired U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette.

It sits adjacent to the parks system's 578-acre Hogback Ridge Park.

If the Grand River's reputation revolves around big-water steelhead fishing than Mill Creek is at the top of the list for small stream finesse trout fishing. This is where careful stalking, precise casting, fine tippets and small flies are often called for in order to catch steelhead.

Just one problem. It is a dickens to access and requires a long march down an old trail or else a haul down a wooden staircase that is sure to leave a wader-clad angler huffing when the decent or ascent is completed.

The new land buy will make that hard work a bit easier to accomplish, says Palagyi.

“What we're buying is the property adjacent to Hogback's existing parking lot which will allow us to develop much better access to Mill Creek,” Palagyi said. “Importantly, too, the field there will mean we can expand the existing parking lot, which really isn't very large. Often during the peak of the steelhead fishing season or when the wildflowers are in bloom the existing parking is full and then some.”

A much smaller in-holding the agency is buying straddles the parks system's largest unit, the 935-acre Girdled Road Reservation in Concord Township.

This piece is costing the agency $155,000 with the money having been bankrolled in anticipation of the land being bought.

“The property is where we have a trail entrance to one of our more popular camp sites but right now it's a tight squeeze,” Palagyi said.

Palagyi said as well that in a day and age when government is stressed by shrinking budgets and taxpayers squeezed just as much, buying land still makes sense.

That is, if the sale price is right, the agency doesn't have to break the bank and the purchase truly fits within the message of the parks system's mission, Palagyi says.

Palaygi did note as well that all three property buys still must go through the legally required real estate vetting process. It likely will take at least several months before any of them are opened, Palaygi said.

“It has always been from Day One of Lake Metroparks' existence to preserve and protect important properties for today and for the future,” Palaygi said.
“And we've always considered as priorities property along Lake Erie, the Chagrin and Grand River corridors or else adjacent to parks we own now. These acquisitions easily fit within those parameters.”

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