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Belpre moving toward wetland project

Flood-prone site in Civitan Park to be excavated, replanted

A wetland project is planned in Belpre Civitan Park, east of the pond, to address an area that floods during rainy periods, prevent soil erosion and better filter stormwater flowing into the Ohio River. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

BELPRE — The city of Belpre is preparing to move forward with a project to establish a wetland area at Civitan Park.

Signs and white paint mark the area to the east of the park’s pond where five large trees, six to eight smaller bushes and a variety of other plants native to the area will be placed over the next couple of months, said Maxine Mobbs, chairwoman of the Belpre Tree Commission. That location floods frequently, Mayor Mike Lorentz said.

“When it’s wet and raining, it just stays soggy,” he said.

The plants, some of which will be supplied by Bob’s Market and Greenhouse in Belpre, will help soak up the excess water, Mobbs said.

“Not only will it look beautiful, it will help prevent soil erosion and help prevent further damage to the Ohio River,” she said in a news release.

One of the last known Holdren’s Early Red apple trees was removed from the wetland project area due to deterioration. Retail manager Jon Neff displays shoots taken from the tree and grafted to roots to eventually be replanted Friday at Bob’s Market and Greenhouse in Belpre Friday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Most streams in Belpre, with the exception of two, are piped underground, Mobbs said. The piped streams flow directly to the Ohio River and do not slow the flow of water enough to reduce the amount of contaminants reaching the river, she said. The wetland will provide another means to filter contaminants, Mobbs said.

The project is being done in conjunction with Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. Engineering students came to the park in the spring and did all of the measuring and designs for the project, Mobbs said.

The work is being funded by a $10,000 grant obtained with the assistance of the school. Lorentz said the city’s local match will come in the form of in-kind contributions, including excavation of the project site.

Work could have begun this week, but Lorentz said he wants to address concerns raised by some residents over the future of the area first.

A wetland project created years ago near Belpre Elementary School was eventually neglected and no longer maintained, the mayor said, and some people are concerned this project could suffer a similar fate.

“It’s a good conversation to have,” Lorentz said.

Assistance from outside groups and volunteers is important on projects like this, given the manpower available to the city, he said. Members of the Tree Commission and people from the Voinovich School are expected to assist in the future, perhaps along with students from Belpre High School, Lorentz said.

“Really after the first couple of years, there’s not much upkeep,” he said.

Recently removed from the proposed wetland site was a Holdren’s Early Red apple tree, a variety patented by the late Robert “Bob” Holdren of Little Hocking in 1974.

The tree was diseased and deteriorating and had to be removed, but shoots taken from it have been grafted to roots and are being cared for at Bob’s Market, said Jon Neff, retail manager at the greenhouse and retail store.

“They’re one of a kind. There (are) no more of them other than what we have here,” Neff said. “We potted them, and we’ve been growing them ever since.”

Mobbs said the goal is to eventually replant the grafted trees somewhere.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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