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Cullen Park wetlands project faces local opposition

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 5:28 AM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - A group of Point Place residents gathered Thursday night to voice their opposition to a local H2Ohio project. The Cullen Bay Wetlands Restoration Project is intended to prevent harmful algal blooms from building up in the lake, but some people are not convinced that this is the answer.

“Over the past century, 90-95% of Ohio’s wetlands have been lost to development, so restoring those wetlands, restoring that filtering capacity helps remove phosphorus from the water, thereby reducing and mitigating the development of algal blooms,” says Sally Gladwell, Senior Vice President at the Mannik & Smith Group.

Mannik & Smith is leading the engineering and design of the Cullen wetlands project. The wetlands are a major part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s H2Ohio initiative to improve Lake Erie water quality. But some doubt it will serve that purpose.

“The Maumee Bay is used by a lot of people. In the summer, you’ve got kayakers, canoers, power boaters. People that come out in their tubes and wake board. They’re in the water. They need clean water. They don’t need extra blue-green algae,” says Point Place resident Ann Foeller.

Foeller is a part of a group that calls itself “Stop the Swamp.” They gathered with more than 100 Point Place residents to discuss the project and the issues they have with it.

Ohio State Senator Teresa Fedor showed up to get more information and hear from her constituents.

“There will be some changes to the bay that’s going to make major changes for all the residents so they need to be a part of the process,” says Fedor.

Stop the Swamp doubts that the wetlands will remove the 10-40 tons of phosphorus annually that is currently predicted. It also believes that the Cullen wetlands will actually make the algae worse and cut off access to the water.

“It’s hard for me to understand why people would think there’s going to be reduced access to the water. I think there’s going to be increased access to water, especially given the new paddling opportunities and a new boardwalk that’s being planned,” says Gladwell. “There will be additional recreational amenities.”

Although Stop the Swamp’s website classified Thursday’s meeting as a “rally,” it was more of an information session.

“We’re here to educate the people that wanted to come,” says Foeller.

But Gladwell says that the information being shared is incorrect.

“We’re a little surprised at some of the information that they’re sharing, which is misinformation, quite frankly,” says Gladwell. “Even the use of the term ‘swamp.’ Scientifically, there’s no swamp that’s even being envisioned here. A swamp is a forested wetland. What we’re talking about here is restoring coastal wetlands that have been lost over time.”

But Foeller believes that the wetlands will turn into a swamp without proper maintenance, and has no faith that the maintenance will occur. Metroparks Toledo signed on last week to be stewards of the long-term, ongoing maintenance of the wetland after the project’s completion. But that doesn’t give Foeller any comfort.

“The wetland’s going to be here forever. Metroparks probably won’t be the custodian forever. So even if I thought they would be good for now, where are they going to be in twenty, thirty years? Because we’re still going to be here,” says Foeller.

Scott Carpenter, spokesperson for Metroparks says that the organization would not have gotten involved with a project that they didn’t believe fit with their pledge of providing people with outdoor recreational opportunities.

“We don’t have more than one set of standards. It’s all the Metroparks standard, and we’ll treat this with the same quality that we do Wildwood, or Pearson, or any other Metropark,” he says.

There is a second wetland planned nearby, off the shore of Grassy Island. Stop the Swamp is also opposed to that project.

You can learn more about both projects on the Cullen Bay Wetlands Restoration Projects website.

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