Fairfield Co. Parks Seek Levy Renewal

On the May 4 ballot, Fairfield County Park District (FCPD) intends to ask voters to renew a levy to fund the parks system for another ten years.

Should voters approve the renewal, the district will use the $1.48 million it collects to fund nature programs, make improvements to and maintain existing parks, and purchase new land.

The Fairfield County Auditor certified the millage at 0.4, which equates to $0.04 for each $100 of assessed property value.  Assessed property value is 35 percent of an appraised property value.

So, if the auditor appraised the value of a property at $300,000 then the assessed value would be $115,000, and the property owner would pay a tax of $46.00 per year ($3.83 per month) if the bond issue passes. This would not be a new tax but a continuation of an existing levy that is due to expire.

“Fairfield County Park District locations provide opportunities for recreation and education,” said Kimber Caito, Media Coordinator for FCPD. “Especially in this time of a pandemic when recreation options are extremely limited, parks play an even more important role! Attendance at our parks has doubled, even tripled, in the past year. Our goal is to have a park within a 15- minute drive of every Fairfield County resident.”

Currently only two county parks lie within Violet Township, but the District has projects underway in and around Pickerington.

Just 10 minutes from downtown Pickerington is Zeller Park, on Benadum Road off Pickerington Road, just south of US-33. For years now, it has been used by Pickerington Area Soccer Association (PASA).

“There is a beautiful picnic shelter that is patterned after Rock Mill Covered Bridge,” Caito said. “It is a lovely and easily accessible location for family gatherings or just a lunchtime getaway from an office! There is also a very nice playground including swings and climbing equipment. A recycle drop-off location is also provided at this park.”

Just beyond Zeller Park is Lockville Canal Park at 5895 Pickerington Road. The location has in it a picnic shelter and the Hartman No. 2 covered bridge. There are three locks – Locks South 11, 12, and 13 – plus nearby Bibler Lock, that will be included in the new Ohio & Erie Canal Southern Descent Heritage Trail.

“The trail is a driving tour that promotes travelers to visit former Ohio & Erie Canal features in Franklin, Fairfield, Pickaway, Ross, and Scioto counties,” Caito said. “The purpose of that trail is to encourage, not only interest in the historical features, but to get visitors to the local businesses including eateries and inns near them. Pickerington and Violet Township could benefit from that connection as well.”

In 2020, a heron rookery in Baltimore was acquired by FCPD using Clean Ohio grant funds plus a landowner match donation. It will be the Elias B. Wagner Preserve. Levy funds will be used to develop the preserve. Planned improvements include wetland mitigation, planting of native prairie grasses (January 2021), construction of trails and boardwalks. There have been discussions about restoring Roley School covered bridge, the one that used to be at Fairfield County Fairgrounds, to a point on the trail where it can be used to observe the rookery.

Although located in Baltimore, it is connected to Pickerington by the bike trail on State Route 256 and is promoted by Fairfield Heritage Trail Association. FCPD is working with Liberty Union-Thurston Local Schools, US Fish & Wildlife Service and Environmental Design Group to create a connection to the schools’ land lab, providing even more educational opportunities.

“To have a presence in Violet Township and be better able to serve Violet Township, Pickerington and the northwest corner of the county, we were able to negotiate with the owner of Coyote Run Farm a donation of land and a house that is at present being renovated for use as a district office,” Caito said. “Our partnership with Coyote Run Farm, a 900-acre working farm and a private conservation project that is adjacent to our soon-to-be-opened Pickerington office, will provide residents with nature observation and educational programs. Part of that property will become a State of Ohio nature preserve.”

Fairfield County Park District will be coordinating efforts to provide programming at Coyote Run and is formulating a plan to get as much active public involvement as possible. One focus will be to connect with schools such as the Pickerington schools, Hocking College and others to arrange class trips or facilitate long-term studies. There have even been discussions about the possibility of constructing a bike trail around Coyote Run.

“We are very excited about being in Violet Township and hope to become a productive part of the community!” Caito said.

The Fairfield County Board of Elections has not yet approved the levy issue for the May ballot, but the agency is expected to do so by February 16.

Photos of Zeller Park and Lockville Canal Park courtesy of Fairfield County Park District. Covered Bridge image by Josh Zielinski, Park District volunteer.

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