Entity Gifted Wooded Parcel

ST. MARYS — A public, wooded area will soon be added to Auglaize County, as the Heritage Trails Park District Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to accept a gift of land in Noble Township at its annual outdoor meeting Tuesday night at the High Street shelter house in St. Marys.

“The Heritage Trails Park District is in the process of being gifted a 15.84-acre piece of land,” Heritage Trails Park District Director Allison Brady said, noting the organization is going through the legal process of acquiring the land.

The land was donated by John and Alma Kuffner and is to be named Dr. Elizabeth Yahl Kuffner Nature Preserve.

“A native of Auglaize County, Dr. Elizabeth Yahl Kuffner was a practicing physician/surgeon in St. Marys from 1938 until her retirement in 1985,” a Heritage Trails Park District news release reads. “She was one of the first local doctors at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, which she was instrumental in establishing. She was born about a quarter-mile from the proposed nature preserve, which is located adjacent to County Road 66A, just north of St. Marys.”

Through community meetings held earlier this year, Brady said a need for a public, wooded area in the community was identified, and word spread to the Kuffners, who already had a wooded area they were willing to donate.

The donation, Brady said, had a few speculations, including that the land needed to be used as a nature preserve, trees are not to be cut down with a few exceptions, the nature preserve needed to be named after Elizabeth Yahl Kuffner and a draft for the property needed to be presented to the family, among others.

Brady worked with the Ohio Department of Transportation to devise a plan for parking at the nature preserve.

“We were pleasantly surprised to find that we do not need to cut any trees for a six-spot parking lot,” she said, noting there is room to expand the parking lot in the future if the need arises.

The addition of the Dr. Elizabeth Yahl Kuffner Nature Preserve will be a benefit for the community, she said.

“It’s within about a half mile of the middle school/high school in St. Marys, and there’s a great deal of opportunity for environmental learning,” Brady said.

Heritage Trails Park District Board of Commissioners President Dave Stilwell said donations like the Kuffners are one of the reasons the Heritage Trails Park District was founded.

“This is one of the reasons we started this district, so people would have a way to donate land,” Stilwell said. “This enables this type of thing to happen. It’s a great memorial.”

Commissioners also discussed the financial future of the Heritage Trails Park District, which receives funding trough the Local Government Fund. The fund, which previously provided the Heritage Trails Park District with approximately $30,000 a year, is estimated to provide $18,792.79 in 2013.

“It’s an estimate that can be adjusted downward,” Brady said, noting the Heritage Trails Park District receives 1.5 percent of the Local Government Fund allotted to Auglaize County.

Commissioner Jim Heinrich said the slash in the Local Government Fund presents a challenge to the Heritage trails Park District.

“Over the last few years, we were accustomed to getting about $30,000,” he said. “With the Local Government Fund diminishing, the Heritage Trails Park District is not going to be sustainable under the current funding.”

Stilwell said the district is looking exploring the possibility of adding a fraction of a 1 mill operating levy to the ballot in 2014.

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved the July 17 meeting minutes.

• Approved the July financial statement.

• Stilwell thanked Wapakoneta lawyer Courtney Burt for donating her services to help with the acquisition of the Kuffner property.

• Spoke with St. Marys Mayor Pat McGowan about partnering with the city of St. Marys to continue park improvements. Brady is hoping to speak with councilors later this year.

The next meeting of the Heritage Trails Park District Board of Park Commissioners will be held at 5 p.m. Sept. 18 at the St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce.