MOUNT VERNON — Knox County commissioners received a half-day tour Tuesday of nearly every county park, along with a description of park progress details offered courtesy of their van driver, Lori Totman, director of the Knox County Park District.
At their first stop, Wolf Run Regional Park on Yauger Road, Totman informed them that a play area for children is being developed near a residence that is used for meetings by park district personnel and volunteers. Later this summer, a large, long hollowed-out log, a project taken on by summer internship students housed at the Honey Run Highlands Park home site, will be transported to the Wolf Run children’s play area. There it will become the first main recreational feature offered to children.
Hollowing out the log from an old ash tree has been an off-and-on project for Honey Run Highlands interns the past two years, said Cody Wright, an internship leader. The giant log came from Dillon State Park in Muskingum County. “Hollowing” the tree works best using a chain saw and an air compressor chisel, he offered.
“It’s already been tested out,” Wright said. “An intern was able to squeeze through it.” He added working for the Knox County Park District has not only been peaceful, “it’s been one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”
Totman also showed commissioners three parcels of land in Howard on Howard-Danville Road that will soon be under the ownership of the Knox County Land Reutilization Corp., also known as the county Land Bank. The Land Bank owns a small dilapidated building, while another owner-occupied home is in the process of being sold to the Land Bank. The state owns a small triangle-shaped piece of land being acquired as well, Totman said.
Once the three parcels — totaling less than one acre — are owned by the Land Bank, the plan is for the Land Bank to sell the property to the county park district.
The parcels, which will be graded and likely have a gravel top, will provide a new access point to the Hellbender Preserve — one of the county’s seven parks, and named after the largest species of salamander that lives in Ohio.
A number of Hellbenders were released in the area three years ago. The only current way people have access to the preserve is through a small point along the Kokosing Gap Trail in Howard, where a community park is located.
Totman said the cost of purchasing the three parcels — with street access to Hellbender Preserve and its water source, Jelloway Creek — will be $5,000. By owning the property, the Knox County Park District will be eligible to receive Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Metapark funds, she added.
Land bank VP Jeff Gottke, reached for comment Tuesday, spoke to the significance of the parcels being purchased for county park district ownership and use.
“This will be the first public use of land bank land,” he said. “It’s exactly why land banks exist.”
Not all of the Knox County Park District tour provided good news, however. Totman said the bat house at Bat Nest Park, located along Ohio 715 and Bat Nest Road, is not seeing bats use the facility after three years. It is an odd case of nature being unpredictable, she noted, because the area has plentiful water sources, floodplain, croplands and wetlands.
Following their county parks tour with Totman, commissioners approved several resolutions:
•Formally awarding the Parrott Street Bridge Replacement Project to V.O. Menuez and Son, Inc., for $886,900.
•Formally approved the bid for resurfacing Apple Valley Drive and Apple Valley Boulevard – Phase I to Small’s Asphalt Paving, Inc., for $1,122,330.
•Approved an agreement between the Knox County Sheriff and the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council Inc., for cooks and secretaries.
County Administrator Jason Booth said the agreement will affect a handful of county employees, such as county jail cooks, who will now receive one additional personal day per year, in addition to a 3 percent salary boost.