In 1997, the DeRivera Park Trust purchased Coopers Woods –
Coopers Woods Shady Path — with a bank loan, private loans, and donations. The vast majority of people assumed that the majority of these 18 acres of dense woods would remain in its natural state. They were wrong. “We will have a meeting once again if the deal [purchase] goes thru and we want to develop anything in great detail.” Despite these assurances and without discussion, without public input, the DeRivera Park Trustees talked about clear cutting the woods, making it into a playground, building a maintenance area, and building a dormitory. A host of people were disturbed.
To prevent the “breaking” of DeRivera Trust Deed and the potential destruction of Cooper s Woods and Shady Path, the “Friends of Coopers Woods” was formed.
The support for this group was phenomenal. The support for keeping the Coopers Woods just the “way it is” was overwhelming. A legal challenge in Ottawa County Probate Court ensured that Coopers Woods would be “protected” until 2017. During this time, “Friends of Coopers Woods” sent out a survey to all property owners on South Bass Island. Over 700 were returned, but one of the most interesting things about this survey was the comments that people wrote:
“They will get their way. You can bet on it. They have the money and influence! They always win. I wish all of you the best of luck… It’s appalling what certain people get away with. Unbelievable. I’m glad I can help save the trees” “We have known this area for 60 years and the loss of it will be almost the end of the old Bay.” “Put-in-Bay needs more public green space.” “Island property is being developed at an alarming rate. If you change Coopers Woods, it will be changed forever, no turning back! You will be destroying what most people come to Put-in-Bay for, a perfect mix of nature and small town on a fabulous island. Please don’t
ruin that with more building!”
“I have been a regular visitor to the island for over 30 years and so I do not like all the changes of the last 20 years. It is so sad – a beautiful place is being overrun with commercial development. You have ruined a good thing – all for the greedy pockets of business owners. It’s too crowded on the weekends to enjoy anything and bringing children to the island is dangerous.” “Tourism has already destroyed the peacefulness of the Put-in-Bay I used to know. I find it hard to justify development of any kind on the island.” “I am not a taxpayer but a visitor who was deeply impressed by the unique ecosystem on South Bass Island. Your efforts to preserve it are needed and appreciated far beyond Put-in-Bay.” “Our kids and grandkids love using Coopers Woods just like it is. Everything on the island has changed so much. Leave one area just like it is!!”
“Our position is simple. The De Rivera Trust was written to fulfill an individual’s philanthropic goals and should not be altered.”
“No housing, buildings, etc. Put-in-Bay is already overdeveloped….” “I feel like I’m paying for Coopers Woods twice: Once to the DeRivera Park Trustees to buy the woods and now to the friends of Coopers Woods.” Members of the Friends of Coopers Woods – the Tree Huggers – realized that there was a tremendous amount of support for keeping some places on the Island “natural” and “unspoiled” and to not “destroy the peacefulness of the Put-in-Bay.” Out of this realization, three distinct organizations emerged.
1. The Lake Erie Islands Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy whose mission is to …encourage conservation and protection of natural and agricultural lands in the Lake Erie Islands for the benefit of future generations. The LEIC is a nonprofit organization formed in 2000, functioning under the auspices of the Black Swamp Conservancy in Perrysburg, Ohio. The Chapter is funded by memberships, donations, and grants.
2. The Put-in-Bay Township Park District was formed in 2006. It is “dedicated to protecting and preserving unique areas that preserve the heritage of the Lake Erie Islands. The Park District recognizes that forested areas, wetlands, grasslands, vineyards, and natural fields in Put-in-Bay Township are disappearing to development at an alarming rate. It is hoped that commercial and residential development can be complemented with areas of green space, natural areas that preserve the heritage of the Islands. The Put-in-Bay Township Park District is a governmental entity established by the Court of Common Pleas of Ottawa County and approved by the voters in General Election in November 2006. They operate without tax revenue-funded by grants and donations.
3. The Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center whose mission is to promote conservation and education of the flora, fauna, and lands of the Lake Erie Islands ecosystem. The LEINWC is a non-profit organization formed in 2009. The educational programs of this organization are directed toward a younger generation. The educational programs of this organization are directed not only toward a younger generation but also to an older generation in an effort to make them aware, sensitive, and appreciative of the fragile environment in which we live. The Center is funded by entrance fees, sponsorships, donations, and grants. Although these are three separate organizations, their goals are intertwined on this Island of Life.
Next month-Article II-Islands of Life By Kelly Faris