There is no doubt that the Little Miami River was important for Native American Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. Born 250 years ago, the Shawnee leader navigated along rivers and creeks with agility, through forests the likes of which we have never experienced. After European settlement, land use changed rapidly and radically. Ohio’s old growth forests were cut. Rivers and streams were managed to create more tillable land and more land for houses and industry. Most of the wild areas, such as the Great Black Swamp that covered a third of western Ohio, were lost.
Fifty years ago, Ohio’s leaders took a significant step to honor our rivers and surrounding rich habitat, passing the first Scenic Rivers Act in the nation. The first river given this designation was the Little Miami. The federal government passed a similar act the next year, and the ensuing 50 years have been filled with a rich and growing appreciation for the benefits our rivers, wetlands, and streamside forests provide.
Locally, a group of people began to ponder the need to protect, promote, and enhance the health of streams and forests some 30 years ago. When the village of Yellow Springs considered selling a property for development that had been purchased with federal “open space” funds, this small group saw a need for community led advocacy and action to protect and steward Ohio’s forests and streams. They founded Tecumseh Land Trust for this purpose.
Land Trust leaders soon found that the rich farmland surrounding our river corridors was also at risk. Population growth leveled off in southwest Ohio by the 1970s, but the amount of land converted to development has tripled since that time. Over the last 30 years, Tecumseh Land Trust (TLT) has had the privilege to work with scores of landowners to consider options to protect their family lands. To date, the group has preserved 158 properties, comprising over 26,000 acres. Their work continues, thanks to the support of members in Clark and Greene Counties, who love the farms, the rivers, and the diverse and unique habitat of our state. Local support makes it possible for us to bring millions of Farm Bill and Clean Ohio dollars to protect local resources.
TLT’s ultimate goal is to preserve 100,000 acres in Clark and Greene counties, predominately farmland, buffering streams and wildlife habitat key to the health of water and aquatic life. Just west of the town of South Charleston lies a great example of this model. The land trust and local landowners have worked for many years to preserve a block of 3,400 acres of prime farmland, surrounding and protecting the headwaters of the Scenic Little Miami River, forever. The streamside forests that buffer the river corridor filters water running off the farmland and provides multiple benefits to all living things.
Tecumseh Land Trust invites the public to its 2018 annual gathering and meeting at a preserved farm just a few miles downstream of this block of preserved land, the McCulloch “Fen Run Farm.” The event will start 2 p.m. Sunday, June 3, with a talk by Hope Taft, former first lady of Ohio, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ohio’s Scenic Rivers Act. A tour of the property, including woods and wetland areas, will begin 3 p.m. Families are welcome, with child-friendly activities available, and light refreshments. Music will be provided by Wild Rumpus. The farm is at 7391 S. Pitchin Road, Springfield, 45502. The farm is preserved through a conservation easement with Tecumseh Land Trust, that includes protections on the meandering river and wetland area. Attendees are advised to bring their own lawn chair for the meeting and wear appropriate shoes for walking around muddy areas.
Around the world, our awareness of the importance of best conservation practices for water quality is growing every day. Ohio’s scenic rivers, and the forests and wetlands that surround them, are treasures to be celebrated, enjoyed and protected. Tecumseh Land Trust stands ready to support families who want to preserve our irreplaceable natural resources in southwest Ohio. Go to www.tecumsehlandtrust.org for more information and to find out how you can help.