Non-profit group in line for $2.3 million to help preserve native American mounds

Funding could preserve, restore 600 acre Tremper farmland

By Tom Corrigan - [email protected]

Headquartered in a corner of Appalachia in the outskirts of Northeast Ohio, but serving the entire Ohio Appalachian region, the nonprofit organization Arc of Appalachia just took a big step forward in its efforts to preserve 600 acres of the former Tremper Farm, currently owned privately and sitting about five miles north of Portsmouth.

While the land is home to portions of the Scioto River as well as Pond Creek, probably most notably, the farmland is home to the Tremper Native American mounds, famous for containing highly unique stone pipes, according to Arc of Appalachia Director Nancy Stranahan.

Over the weekend, Arc of Appalachia announced it is one of the finalists for a funding opportunity which could earn them some $2.3 million toward restoring and preserving the Tremper farmland.

The money will come from a somewhat unique sponsorship program run by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Known by the long title of Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program (WRRSP), the program unites preservation groups with what Stranahan referred to as municipal septic systems.

According to OEPA, the systems must have applied for and received monies from OEPA’s Water Pollution Control Loan Fund. In return for sponsoring projects such as that being undertaken by the Arc of Appalachia with regard the Tremper Farm, participating municipal systems receive greatly reduced interest rates on their state loans.

According to Stranahan, the companies save more in interest than they spend in sponsoring projects such as Arc of Appalachia’s. From the state’s point of view, the program promotes separate preservation or environmental rehabilitation projects.

Arc of Appalachia’s project tied for second in scoring done by the OEPA. Their project earned a total of 26 points, while the winning project earned 27.1. In comments to the Daily Times, Stranahan said the funding is not quite guaranteed. In an email, Stranahan wrote coming in high on OEPA’s list of projects means the Arc project “is scheduled to be nominated. Notice that the list is titled ‘draft,’ because the list has yet to go through the required waiting period for review.”

Still, during a phone interview, Stranahan seemed confident the Tremper Farm project ultimately will be eligible to take part in the state program.

“Even though funding is a likelihood now, there will still be a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ elements in its forward advancement. It will be a full year before we close, if we are lucky, and several years of landscape restoration (tree planting and invasive plant removal), and trail development,” Stranahan wrote in her email.

As noted, Arc does not own the Tremper Farm but does have a contract for purchase contingent upon obtaining funding.

Once the project turns the backing of the state, the next step for Arc is to find a municipal system willing to sponsor them. Stranahan did not want to even guess how long that process might be in the works.

Stranahan previously spent a lot of time talking about the significance of the Tremper Mounds. While Ohio is home to several of the somewhat mysterious Native American mounds, including of course, those situated in Mound Park directly within the city of Portsmouth, as previously noted, the Tremper Mounds are unique for the presence of carved stone pipes found buried inside them.

The pipes date back some 2,000 years, according to Stranahan. They are known as effigy pipes because they are in the shape of actual animals. However, Stranahan said they are even more unique in that the animals depicted are not necessarily the big, strong types often associated with Native American folklore, animals such as bears or big cats.

Instead, Tremper Mound pipes include figures of such benign creatures as frogs and woodpeckers. According to Stranahan, no one really knows what purpose the pipes served, ceremonious or otherwise.

Stranahan further noted the Tremper Mounds are among the best preserved in Ohio. While the land they sit on was used as a working farm, the mounds retains their original footprint. Interest in the mounds goes back a long way, with extensive articles on the mounds appearing in the Daily Times as early as 1915.

While Stranahan said an emphasis predictably will be put on preserving the mounds, both she, and Scioto County officials talked early this year about hiking trails and other amenities being built up around the mounds. Stranahan noted the development will benefit all of Scioto County but, if all goes as planned, will not cost residents one cent.

The Scioto County Board of Commissioners got involved in the project in March, passing a resolution of support needed for the OEPA program. Speaking early this week, Stranahan talked about how the healthy condition of Pond Creek helped her group in gaining the support of the OEPA. She said the creek contains what is technically designated “exceptional warm water,” meaning, in simplistic terms, it can support fish and other wildlife as well as aquatic plants. Stranahan further briefly mentioned the Scioto River, at least in the area of the farm, has made a huge comeback in terms of its overall condition.

In addition to the potential OEPA program funding, the farm project also won a Clean Ohio grant, though Stranahan did not know the amount of that grant off the top of her head. She did say it was considerably less than the potential OEPA program funding.

“It’s been sitting empty for so long, I’m just glad it will be turned into something useful for everyone,” county Commissioner Cathy Coleman said regarding Tremper Farm when commissioners passed a resolution of support for the Arc proposal.

Funding could preserve, restore 600 acre Tremper farmland

By Tom Corrigan

[email protected]

Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.