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COUNCIL APPROVAL EXPECTED

Toledo city council is expected to approve the sale of the Fallen Timbers battlefield land to the Toledo Area Metroparks today, putting the finishing touches on a $5.5 million agreement reached yesterday between Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and the park board.

After meeting with the mayor in an executive session for more than an hour, the Metroparks board voted to buy the land from the city in two parcels, beginning this year with 72 acres for $2.8 million.

The Metroparks board has until July 31, 2001, to purchase the remaining 115 acres for $2.7 million, under the terms of the agreement.

Council President Peter Ujvagi said he hopes council approves the sale at its meeting. "I think it's an excellent deal," he said.

Mayor Finkbeiner called the sale "a great day for Toledo and the region."
"We know this is hallowed ground and we will preserve it," said Susan Horvath, president of the Metroparks board.

She said the panel felt confident that a deal could be reached if they met personally with the mayor. "It was not negotiations. It was a question of how we can best do this job," board member Jack Gallon said.

The sale was perhaps the biggest hurdle to date in the six-year effort to turn the 187 acres of land in Maumee into a national park. Congress last year declared the land a national historic site.
Mayor Finkbeiner and Ms. Horvath sat at one end of a large table in the mayor's conference room and penned their names to the agreement.

Their signatures ended months of wrangling over a selling price. The city had the land appraised at $7.3 million. Two state appraisals valued the land at $3.6 million and $3.8 million.

At one time, the mayor insisted that he would accept no less than $6 million for the land, but later moved from that price after the Metroparks agreed to purchase the land in two parcels once they had enough cash for each. Going into negotiations yesterday, the city and the Metroparks were $300,000 apart on a price.

So far, the parks have $2.8 million - $2 million from the state, $500,000 from Maumee, and $300,000 from Lucas County - which will secure the purchase of the first parcel. Because the state has pledged to pay for half of land acquisition costs of the park, at least $500,000 more state money is expected next year, park board members said.

Ms. Horvath said the board is confident federal money will be available. Mr. Gallon said without a purchase agreement and definite sale amount, it had been impossible for the board to attempt to get federal funding.

Mayor Finkbeiner pledged the city's help in obtaining money, public and private, for the purchase of the second parcel. He suggested that $2 million in federal money could be available through the U.S. Department of the Interior later this year.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), issued a statement reaffirming her commitment to finding federal money to help pay for the purchase of the second parcel and for the development of the park.

She said the sale represents a "feasible fund-raising goal" for the Metroparks.

Mr. Ujvagi said he recognizes that the effort to raise money for the purchase of the second parcel would take some work. "That's a challenge that all of us are going to have to work together on to make it happen, but I'm hopeful that it will occur," he said.

As part of the deal, the city agreed not to renew a lease for the land to be farmed, and to help secure and preserve the battlefield land from those who would comb it for historical artifacts, until the sale is completed next year. The city will conduct an updated survey of the land.

Citizens and officials who have been involved in the battlefield project were pleased with the progress.

Kathryn Johnson, an original member of board of trustees of the Fallen Timbers Battlefield Preservation Commission and a leader in the effort, said she believes that the selling price is fair for all parties involved. "For a long time, it seemed like it might not happen. ... We're so delighted after all this time," she said.

"It's been a long hard pull, but we're getting there. We've hung in there all this time. It's been five or six years since we first organized. ...We were a small group, meeting with an impossible idea," Mrs. Johnson said.

State Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee), who has worked for two years to attract state funds for the Fallen Timbers project, called the price a "fair one."

"The final figure they arrived at falls near the middle between the state's appraisal and the city of Toledo's appraisal. I'm thrilled that peace has finally come in regards to this issue.

"It is without exception one of the most historical sites - not only in northwest Ohio - but in America. So much so that if the battle had gone the other way, we'd all be speaking French," Mr. Olman said.

"I think it's wonderful that the mayor and the Metroparks were able to agree on a price and buy the Fallen Timbers battlefield site and move forward," said county Commissioner Sandy Isenberg.

Ms. Isenberg said that while she does not foresee the county pledging additional cash toward the deal, she expects the county to offer in-kind services, such as road engineering, to help with the development of the park. The battlefield park would be a benefit for historians and tourists, she said.

Ms. Horvath said development of the park is expected to cost several million dollars, for such things as building roads, trails, exhibits, and an interpretive center.

Mrs. Johnson said it will be several more years before the park is developed and opened. "This is a battlefield park. It's a different kind of park. It's going to take a while and it will take expertise. We'll have the help of the National Park Service," she said.

"We should remind ourselves that the Battle of Fallen Timbers is of historical significance not only to our region, but also to our nation. The preservation and interpretation of this site will be a gift with significant economic benefit to our area," Miss Kaptur said in the statement.

Planners have theorized that they would like to dedicate the park on Aug. 20, 2003, because Aug. 20 would be the 209th anniversary of the battle, and the year 2003 is Ohio's bicentennial year, Mrs. Johnson said.

The 1795 Treaty of Greenville, which resulted from the Battle of Fallen Timbers, opened Ohio and much of the Northwest Territory to settlers. In the war, Gen. Anthony Wayne led forces that defeated an alliance of American Indian tribes.

The battlefield is part of about 1,200 acres, formerly in Monclova Township, which the city purchased for $14 million in 1987. The city wanted to annex it, but the move was blocked by the courts. Toledo has gradually sold off most of the land, much of which has since been annexed to Maumee.

All content © 2000 THE BLADE, TOLEDO, OHIO and may not be republished without permission.

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© Copyright 2008 State Representative Lynn Olman. All rights reserved.

 

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