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Glen adds to protected land

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There are many attractive qualities to Camp Greene, the former Girl Scout camp that Glen Helen acquired last week. The 30 acres between the Little Miami River and Grinnell Road are well preserved and topographically interesting, with an upland of rolling hills and a flood plain along the lower third of the property. The secluded but sun-drenched camp supports several rare plant species as well as diverse avian life, and the lodge, dorm and camping facilities are well maintained with the potential for many educational and community uses.

But the most important aspect of the camp, and the key reason the Glen purchased it, is its location contiguous with the Glen along a national scenic waterway and at the apex of the Country Common, an area targeted a half a century ago for preservation by the leaders of local, regional and state conservation agencies. If the Common area between Yellow Springs, State Route 343 and Clifton Road could be protected, it would greatly enhance the mission to preserve the native habitat of a region already naturalized by the Glen, John Bryan park, the Boy Scout camp and Clifton Gorge.

“A lot of properties border Glen Helen, and the question is, can we take the initiative as these properties are changing hands to work with the property owners and make sure there are easements to not develop the land — as with the strategy that’s playing out at the Girl Scout camp,” Glen Helen Ecology Institute Director Nick Boutis said. “This is a significant stretch of land right next to Glen Helen that could have been potentially vulnerable if we weren’t involved, and it’s got interesting educational buildings and well-managed facilities.”

Fortunately for conservationists, Camp Greene has long been owned by the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, whose own mission includes protection of the natural land. But permanent protection was needed to ensure that the land would remain undisturbed in perpetuity. The Glen’s move not only brought the land under its wing but also provided a conservation easement that prevents any future development on it.

Bill Kent, a board member of the Glen Helen Association that helped purchase the land and easement, thinks of development rights like mineral rights, which can be bought and sold on any property. That’s the reason the Glen and Tecumseh Land Trust have worked so hard over the past two years to acquire Clean Ohio and other funds to purchase a permanent conservation easement on the Glen’s 1,000-acre preserve.

“From the top of John Bryan Park down to the Funderburg Farm, the only private land along the river is held by [one landowner],” Kent said. “This is the cleanest part of the Little Miami River.”

The purchase and easement for Camp Greene cost a total of $668,000, including some restoration work the Glen plans to do to remove invasive species (read: honeysuckle) and replant natives. Of the total, $400,000 came from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, and $100,000 was given from the Dayton Foundation’s Upper River Fund, with the remainder to come from the Glen Helen Association.

According to Upper River Fund Chairman Irvin Bieser, the camp, which includes 1,900 feet of frontage on the State and National Scenic Little Miami River, is a “beautiful piece of land that contains very pristine, nice forests, adjoins Glen Helen and is a special, key piece of the entire river.”

Rested by the Girl Scouts in 2009, the property was also found to provide habitat for rare and endangered plants listed in the Ohio Heritage Inventory, including mountain rice, southern hairy rock cress, three birds orchid, limestone savory, wall rue and Sharp’s green-cushioned moss.

And for the Glen’s other mission as an educational institution connected to (and owned by) Antioch College, the camp’s location and facilities could potentially allow the Glen to offer a wider variety of school and summer camp programs. The 3,200-square-foot lodge has upper story dorms, and a separate dormitory sleeps more people indoors, while seven wooden platforms for canvas tents offer a rustic outdoor camping experience in the summer.

“This offers us an opportunity to do programs that are hard to do in other parts of the Glen,” Boutis said, such as outdoor camping, nocturnal bird watching, overnight retreats and backpacking trips between the camp lodge and the Outdoor Education Center lodge. The property also has ample parking for larger community events, such as the Glen’s pancake breakfast.

One potential drawback is that the camp lacks plumbing. The lodge gets its water from a cistern and has only pit toilets, which precludes serious cooking and accommodates only the hardiest of overnight campers. Though the Glen hasn’t decided exactly what it will do about the plumbing situation, its leaders hope to be able to use the property at some point in the future to enhance all of its programs and events.

The GHA plans to host a community open house on the property in the spring and will announce volunteer honeysuckle removal days in the coming months as well.

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