Nestled just a few miles off Ohio’s north coast, many appreciate the rich geologic and natural heritage of Kelleys Island – from glacial grooves reminiscent of the ice age to pockets of globally-rare habitat that support rare and endangered species. For years, conservation partners have worked tirelessly to protect this heritage and provide public access to these natural wonders.
Western Reserve Land Conservancy recently worked with Ron Curilla and the Village of Kelleys Island to create the 15-acre Ed Curilla Preserve and add it to the island’s impressive interconnected system of natural areas.
The property is located on the southwest quadrant of the island, approximately a quarter mile north of the Lake Erie coastline and within walking distance of the downtown. Though it was once slated for development, Ron Curilla family worked with conservation partners to permanently preserve the beautiful and rare habitat found on the property.
“There are plenty of places to build, but this is a special place worthy of conserving,” Curilla said. “It was my greatest wish to see this happen. I hope future generations see the value of the conserved properties like this.”
“The diligent efforts of Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the people of Kelleys Island, and the Curilla family are to be applauded,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. “This new 15-acre preserve will protect the beautiful woodlands and wildlife on Kelleys, helping to sustain the island’s natural beauty for generations to come.”
The property boasts a 3-acre Great Lakes Alvar community. Andy McDowell, vice president of western field operations for the Land Conservancy explained that alvars are unique, globally significant habitats mostly found along shorelines where limestone bedrock lies flat and open with thin soils, sparse vegetation, and limited tree cover. In the United States, alvar occurs only within the Lake Erie Islands and in the northern parts of New York and Michigan. Alvars contain distinctive plant communities adapted to such extreme conditions. Among the plant species found within this unique community are red cedar and hackberry.
Mature forest makes up a significant share of the property. These forests provide important habitat for wildlife, especially migrating birds that depend on Kelleys Island as critical stopover point. Two small ponds are also located on the property, which are of particular value to reptiles, amphibians, and a diverse array of dragonflies and damselflies.
With assistance from the Land Conservancy, the Village of Kelleys Island applied for and was awarded grant funding to purchase the highly developable property through the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, a voter-approved source of revenue for projects preserving natural areas in the state. As part of the funding requirements, the Village granted a conservation easement to the Land Conservancy to permanently conserve the property.
McDowell explained that additional funding was provided through individual donations. The project received wide community support including volunteer clean up help from Kelleys Island Audubon Club and ongoing stewardship support from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The Land Conservancy and the Museum worked together to create the adjacent 60-acre Huntley-Beatty Quarry Preserve in 2012.
“Joining the Ed Curilla Preserve and the Huntley-Beatty Quarry Preserve offers hikers, bird watchers and nature lovers a combined beautiful area of woods, wetlands, alvar, quarry and exquisite and rare plants, including the endangered Lakeside Daisy,” said June Campbell of the Kelleys Island Village Park District Recreation Board. “It is a complete experience of the Island’s natural areas and lovely to include when spending a day to explore Kelleys Island.”
The Ed Curilla Preserve is an important addition to an impressive, interconnected system of natural areas on Kelleys Island. More than 825 acres, or approximately one-third of the island, is now protected in its natural state. “Many appreciate the rich geologic and natural heritage of Kelleys Island,” said McDowell. “We are proud to work with conservation partners to provide public access to these natural wonders.”
Plans for the Ed Curilla Preserve are currently under development and the property will be opened to the public at a later date.