The Nature Conservancy announced today that it has accepted the donation of the Grand Valley Christian Center Camp from City Mission, a Cleveland-based non-profit charitable organization. The donation, which includes 58 acres and more than 25 buildings, will be added to the Conservancy’s 1,300-acre Morgan Swamp Nature Preserve in Ashtabula County and will become the new site of the Conservancy’s Northeast Ohio Project Office.
The land has been operated as the Grand Valley Christian Center Camp since 1965, and for generations of Clevelanders, it’s been a cool woodland retreat from the city’s summer heat. Even before then, the land along the Grand River was known for its beauty and wildlife, said Josh Knights, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio.
“Before City Mission owned it, a Cleveland Jewish group operated a camp there, and before that it was a private hunting retreat and farm,” Knights said. “We’re proud that the board of City Mission entrusted us with the care of this property that is so important both ecologically and historically.”
The camp includes a lodge and barn that are more than 100-years old, as well as cabins, a gymnasium and administrative buildings. The property also encompasses beaver ponds and about a half mile of frontage along the Grand River. The camp was previously more than 250 acres, but in 2009, the Conservancy purchased more than 200 acres of heavily wooded land completely surrounding the camp. In November, the City Mission board of trustees voted to donate the land to the Conservancy.
“It was time for us to pass this land along to a new owner, and we could not think of a better steward than The Nature Conservancy,” said Richard Trickel, CEO of The City Mission. “We wanted to ensure that this place, which holds so many memories for so many Clevelanders, would be protected for the future.”
Conservationists know the Grand River areas as a rare swath of “north woods” in the Midwest, perfect habitat for painted trillium, snowshoe hare, and other rare plants and animals normally found in more northern climes. A swampy forest dominated by hemlock and yellow birch trees once covered about five square miles along the Grand River, arguably the cleanest river flowing into Lake Erie. The Conservancy and its partners have worked for many years to protect what is left of this forest. It’s the only place in Ohio that this northern-style habitat is found – due primarily to the large amounts of lake-effect snow generated by Lake Erie, said Karen Adair, Northeast Ohio Projects Manager for the Conservancy.
“This is a heavily forested river corridor still in its natural state, and that’s rare for Ohio,” Adair said. “This donation will help expand that river corridor protection, but it also will provide a new home base for the Conservancy’s work in Northeast Ohio.”
Adair said conservation of the property’s key natural features will be the highest priority for the camp property and some of the buildings will be use for the Conservancy’s office and land management needs. Beyond that, the ultimate use of the camp and its buildings is in the process of being evaluated and carefully considered. “The Conservancy intends to meet with a wide range of stakeholders who might help us evaluate the camp and its importance to the community, and consider different possible uses for the buildings and grounds,” she said, adding that this process could take several months.
In the meantime, the Conservancy will maintain the building and grounds with the help of resident manager who previously cared for the property as an employee of City Mission and is now an employee of The Nature Conservancy. From this site the Conservancy in 2011 will launch a three-year, intensive effort to restore 530 acres of wetlands in the Grand River watershed, part of a broader habitat restoration effort funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The Nature Conservancy is actively raising funds to provide for the long-term stewardship needs of this property. For information about how you can help provide a sustainable future for this land, please contact: Carolyn Williams at 614-717-2770 ext. 116.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.