July 27, 2023
A 43-acre parcel of land in Wayne County will forever remain in its natural state thanks to landowners Josh and Joanna Keplar and their commitment to fulfill Josh’s grandmother’s wish to preserve the land for future generations.
Western Reserve Land Conservancy — Ohio’s largest land trust, conserving more than 900 acres of land at 13 properties in Wayne County — partnered with the Keplars to make their dream a reality.
The property is largely agricultural, but it contains forest borders, wet fields and wetlands that provide an excellent feeding, breeding and nesting habitat for a variety of bird and bat species.
According to natural resource surveys, 10 rare, threatened or endangered species have been confirmed on-site. That includes the Ohio endangered tri-colored bat; three bat species listed as an Ohio species of concern — big brown bat, eastern red bat and hoary bat; the Ohio species of concern red-headed woodpecker; and two high-priority bird species — wood thrush and field sparrow.
Western Reserve Land Conservancy has plans to restore wetlands and upland prairie and plant trees to reclaim the agricultural land, which is adjacent to a 50-acre property owned by the Wayne County Park District that Josh’s grandmother donated in her will in 2018.
“We are proud to share our commitment and passion for land conservation with the Keplars and their family,” says Andy McDowell, vice president of western field operations at the land conservancy. “This property not only provides important habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife, but it is also a symbol of one family’s commitment to conservation.”
Josh Keplar spoke about his family’s land, indicating the 43-acre parcel was once part of a 400-acre farm located at the corner of Parameter Road and SR604. The farmland has been in the family for four generations. Josh’s grandmother never married and did not have children of her own, but she fostered children, including Josh’s mother.
“We’ve always been proud to care for this property, and now we can be certain it will remain as it is for future generations,” Josh says. “During the COVID lockdowns, we would walk on this land often, and we found a new appreciation for what nature can do to help us when times are tough. I’m so pleased to partner with the land conservancy to protect this property forever.”
Josh considered several other options to conserve the land, involving farm bill conservation programs via other organizations, but ultimately felt working with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy was the best option to accomplish his goals and those of his grandmother.
Source: Western Reserve Land Conservancy
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