The Nature Conservancy Buys Snow Lake
Conservation of Geauga County glacial lake and surrounding wetlands is crucial to maintaining integrity of Cuyahoga Wetlands.
BURTON, Ohio — The Nature Conservancy has purchased 272 acres in Geauga County that includes Snow Lake, an ancient kettle lake in Geauga County at the heart of one of the finest remaining glacial wetlands in Ohio.
“There is no other wetland complex in Ohio that is like the Cuyahoga Wetlands, and Snow Lake is the crown jewel of those wetlands,” said Terry Seidel, director of protection for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio.
Snow Lake includes a small kettle lake surrounded by emergent marsh, vernal pools and swamp forests. It is located adjacent to the southern boundary of the Conservancy’s 376-acre Lucia S. Nash Preserve (a National Natural Landmark) and just a few miles to the southeast of Punderson State Park. Both Snow Lake and the Nash Preserve are part of a 20,000-acre complex of boggy bottomland known as the Cuyahoga Wetlands, an area that hasn’t been drastically altered since the last glacial sheet receded about 10,000 years ago. The complex also includes the Geauga Park District’s Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve and Fern Lake, which is owned by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
The property was purchased from members of the Holzheimer family, who have helped maintain the wild character of the property for more than a century. The lake is named for Oliver Snow, who was deeded property through a Connecticut land grant in the early 1800s, said David Holzheimer, of Chagrin Falls. In 1906, Holzheimer’s grandfather and several friends purchased Snow Lake and established the Snow Lake Hunting and Fishing Club. As years passed, interest in the club waned and the Holzheimer family gradually bought out the remaining members.
“There are a lot of good family memories there,” Holzheimer said. “Duck hunting, fishing, hiking those marshes.” The property is home to a wide variety of animals, including migratory and nesting ducks, geese, trumpeter swans and wading birds including sandhill cranes, which nest on the property.
Conservation-minded organizations have been interested in protecting Snow Lake for more than 30 years, said Bill Ginn, an honorary life trustee of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio and a longtime broker of conservation deals in Northeast Ohio.
“Once I saw what was out there, it became immediately apparent that this place needed to be saved, for the future of those wetlands,” Ginn said.
The property was purchased with help from Ohio EPA’s Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program in cooperation with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). Ohio EPA’s program encourages communities to pair water treatment infrastructure improvement with companion projects that restore habitat and control runoff.
“We like the program because it’s a way to reach beyond the pipes,” said Paul Kovalcik, a spokesperson for NEORSD. “We get a good interest rate, and we can do good watershed work that benefits water quality in addition to our gray infrastructure work that also benefits water quality.”
The 300,000 customers who rely on Akron’s municipal water system also benefit from the protection of Snow Lake. Wetlands and adjacent undeveloped upland areas play a crucial role in maintaining and improving water quality. The newly protected property is adjacent to a patchwork of 18,000 acres the City of Akron owns and manages in the Cuyahoga Wetlands to protect the city’s drinking water reservoirs downstream.
“The City of Akron applauds the efforts of The Nature Conservancy, the Ohio EPA and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, in cooperating to protect the integrity of these wetlands,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said. “Not only does this purchase aid in preservation of the wild beauty of the Scenic Upper Cuyahoga River Watershed, it also supplements Akron’s existing, significant efforts to protect the quality of the drinking water supply for Akron and surrounding communities by adding to the permanent conservation of land in the watershed.”
The Conservancy closed on the property July 5 and is developing a plan to open the property to the public, likely sometime in 2018.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.