Fox Nature Preserve
Our First Land Acquisition & Restoration Project
The 40-acre property is located directly across SR 2 from the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Restoration work was completed in 2019-2021 and included restoring wet prairie and shrub habitat which should be excellent for birds and wildlife. The property was sold to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April 2020, and the proceeds from the sale will be used for future land purchases in a revolving fund managed by the Friends.
Charles Fox, Jr. owned the farm for many years, allowing tenants to rent the house and fields. He came from a long line of tool and die makers and was the first of his family to attend college. As a teenager he was involved in church, attending Luther League youth group and being inspired by his pastor to pursue a career in the ministry. During those years in Toledo he met Barbara McLain at Schmucker’s Diner, a favorite hangout of the local teens. Both Barbara and Charles attended Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where Charles went on to attend seminary, earning a Bachelor of Divinity with Honors. They married in 1953, and eventually moved to Farmington, Michigan, in 1960 when Charles was called as Pastor of St. John Lutheran Church. They had three children and Charles served as the beloved pastor of that congregation for 33 years. He held on to the farm, and his family now feels that it was for a special purpose.
When Charles passed away in 2016, his family wondered what they should do with the farm. Acreage owned by other family members had formed Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Barbara and their children worked with Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge to sell the farm, allowing us to facilitate adding acreage to the refuge for the first time in 2019. They feel good knowing that the land will be conserved for generations to come.
"Our family was so excited to sell our father's farm to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. We were always hoping to preserve the "farm" in some way and this presented the perfect opportunity! The opportunity to leave a legacy, contribute to the Refuge, to protect wildlife and to restore the farm back to its natural state."
The grassland restoration and reforestation project are designed to mimic pre-settlement Great Black Swamp conditions. The area was a priority project for wildlife habitat restoration because of its location in the Maumee Area of Concern. The restoration work was financed in part by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. EPA with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The Fox Nature Preserve was planted by 21-year-old U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological technician Owen Segaard on June 18-19, 2020. Moist meadow and woodland edge seed will restore this field to habitat for birds and wildlife. You may remember that Owen started as a Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge sponsored intern in 2018. We are proud that he has become so involved with the refuge over the past two years. We have no idea where Owen's career will take him, but we feel honored knowing that in 50 years he can come back to this place and remember that he planted the first seeds to conserve this land.
The existing 8 acre woods is already quite striking with a variety of woodland plant species including jack-in-the-pulpit and mayapple.
The next priority of the Friends of Ottawa NWR is to increase site accessibility to provide safe access for all. The Friends will next work with the refuge to establish an ADA compliant hiking trail loop at the Fox Nature Preserve in 2022. This will feature sections of boardwalk and compacted gravel as well as ADA compliant parking spaces. ADA compliant access will be funded by the Richard Kimple Family; Ottawa County Community Foundation; Stranahan Supporting Organization, Andersons Fund Supporting Organization, and Toledo Rotary Club Foundation Fund of the Greater Toledo Community Foundation.
Read our newsletter for more information about the Fox Nature Preserve, it's restoration, and plans for public access.