Action taken late last month by the Scioto County Board of Commissioners already may have borne a bit of fruit for the grassroots organization known as Arc of Appalachia.
Founded in 1995, the group has raised and spent over $13 million for forest conservation, currently overseeing 17 nature preserves and taking on numerous related tasks.
Arc of Appalachia currently has its sights set on the 600 acres of the former Tremper Farm, owned privately and sitting about five miles north of Portsmouth. Most notably, the farm is the home to the Tremper Native American mounds, famous for containing highly unique stone pipes, according to Arc of Appalachia Director Nancy Stranahan.
During the Feb. 26 county board meeting, commission President Mike Crabtree said Arc of Appalachia has the opportunity through grants to regain all or most of whatever turns out to be the purchase price of the large farm. However, he added, to proceed, the group needed the blessing of various governmental groups, such as the Scioto County Commissioners. That blessing was granted unanimously by the board members present.
Last month, Stranahan termed her organization’s attempts to buy the farm as being in their infancy. On Wednesday she reported the group has obtained a contract to buy the property, contingent on finding funding.
“We are pursuing two funding sources,” Stranahan said. “One is Clean Ohio, which has the ability to partially fund the type of park development we would like to see happen: the trailheads, interpretive signs, educational kiosk, canoe/kayak access, pedestrian bridge over Pond Creek, and hiking trails. That grant is submitted, and we should hear some news on how it fares by the end of the month.”
Stranahan added a second and larger grant submission is due in mid to late summer and would fund, if awarded, the bulk of the land acquisition and land restoration. That grant would come from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
While Stranahan chose to not term news of a contract to buy the property as “definitive news,” she did want to trumpet that the project seems to continue to be evolving.
“I’m just glad, it’s been sitting empty for so long, I’m just glad it will be turned into something useful for everyone,” Commissioner Cathy Coleman said last month.
As the purchase price of the farm has not yet been negotiated, Stranahan was unable to say how much grant money Arc of Appalachia would seek. She did note the OEPA grant is very competitive and the application will take a lot of study and effort on the part of Arc of Appalachia. She said that effort needs to get underway fairly quickly even though the grant application technically isn’t due until July.
While Stranahan said an emphasis predictably will be put on preserving the mounds, both she, and briefly, Crabtree, talked 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.
For her part, Stranahan 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.
According to Stranahan, the pipes date back some 2,000 years. 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. The Tremper Mound pipes include figures of such benign animals as frogs and woodpeckers. According to Stranahan, no one really knows what purpose the pipes served, ceremonious or otherwise.
Stranahan also talked about how the Tremper Mounds are among the best preserved in Ohio. While the land they sit on was used as a working farm, the mound retains its 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.
Regarding the grants, Stranahan said arc of Appalachia will know by early winter whether or not they will be the recipients of the all-important OEPA grant.