By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
For nearly two centuries, the farm settled by William Pratt in Perrysburg Township has stayed in the family’s care. Descendants Doug and Mary Ellen Pratt could not bear to have their beloved farm split up and turned into housing developments, so on Tuesday they did something their community-minded ancestors might have appreciated.
They gave their land to the people of Wood County for generations to come.
“We express our gratitude to the park district,” Doug Pratt said as he and his wife handed their homestead over to the Wood County Park District. “Our only regret is we won’t be here to see it.”
The Pratts asked that the park district dedicate about 40 acres for sports fields, then use the remaining 120 acres for trails, trees, a pond, cross country skiing and picnic areas.
“What you did is very generous,” said Denny Parish, of the park district board. “I find it ironic that you would thank us.”
“The citizens of Wood County thank you,” said Bob Dorn, of the park district board.
The 160 acres of fields and farm homestead are split by Hull Prairie Road, just north of Roachton Road. The farmland is almost completely surrounded by housing developments, and will soon be neighbor to the newest Perrysburg school.
“We don’t want it in housing,” Doug Pratt said of his farm.
Neil Munger, director of the park district, assured the Pratts that the farm would be in good hands. “What a wonderful, wonderful thought on their part to preserve their property,” Munger said. “It will be a natural space for future generations.”
Mary Ellen Pratt shared the story of the farm’s beginning nearly 200 years ago. William Pratt, of the New York Militia, was charged with delivering supplies to Fort Meigs during the War of 1812. Something about the region – with its heavy woods, swampy land, and Native Americans – convinced him to settle in the Perrysburg area.
In 1819, William Pratt brought his family to the area. He died in 1824, but his family carried on. The oldest farm documentation the Pratts have found is a land patent sent from Washington, D.C., signed by John Quincy Adams.
William Pratt served as the first treasurer of Wood County and as a common pleas judge. Fred Pratt (Doug’s father) served as a commissioner and township trustee. Doug Pratt has farmed the family’s acreage for decades, drove school bus for Perrysburg schools, and served 32 years as a volunteer firefighter.
“We have a history of giving to the community,” Mary Ellen Pratt said.
“We’re standing on the shoulders of a lot of people,” Doug Pratt said.
The couple asked only that the park district be good stewards to their land. “Preserve it as open land and provide a place for recreation for years to come,” and preserve the family name, Mary Ellen Pratt asked.
The 160-acre park area will be the second largest county park, next to the Bradner Preserve, and is estimated to be worth millions of dollars to the district.
“This is a historic day for the Wood County Park District. This is a historic day for Wood County. This is a historic day for the citizens of Wood County,” Parish said.
In addition to the acreage, the couple is also leaving their historic Hull Prairie home to the park district. “That house will be a crown jewel,” Parish said.
The land and home will remain in the Pratts’ hands as long as they live. “It doesn’t go till we go,” Mary Ellen Pratt said.
“No offense, but I hope it’s a long time till it’s a park,” Munger said.
And even after they are gone, Doug Pratt told the park board, “We’ll still be watching.”
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the park board heard from former board member Frank McLaughlin about the rails to trails project called the Chessie Circle. The project, which involves multiple governmental entities including the park district, would create a bike trail in northern Wood County and Lucas County.
Lucas County entities are actively pursuing fundraising and making progress on the trail, McLaughlin said. “It looks like a terrific opportunity for folks in Lucas County.”
But no progress has been made on the Wood County portion of the bike trail, which McLaughlin said would have a substantial price tag.
“I’m hoping this is a project that stays on the park district’s radar,” he said.
Newer board members had not heard about the park district’s expected role in the project. Munger said the district had hit a snag in one area, with the railroad not allowing the trail to be built next to active lines.
McLaughlin also mentioned the lack of progress on the North Coast Inland Trail that currently runs from Elyria to the Genoa/Millbury area and then ends. The trail is intended to be extended to connect Walbridge to Maumee, but the portion in Wood County remains incomplete.
“There’s a big missing piece right now,” he said.
Also at the Tuesday’s meeting, the board:
- Learned the county commissioners had agreed to sell about 10 acres behind the Wood County Historical Center to the park district for $1 to operate as an archery range. The acreage is separated from the museum by the Portage River. The entrance to the archery range will be off Linwood Road.
- Heard a suggestion from board member John Calderonello that the park district look at using solar power where possible to reduce utility costs. Munger said he had been talking with Bowling Green officials about using some of the power that will be created by the solar field planned by the city.
- Approved the carrying of Narcan by the park rangers. Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal medication, is being carried by many law enforcement agencies. Dorn expressed liability concerns about rangers administering the drug, but other board members felt it might be a bigger liability to not carry the drug.
- Discussed a revision to the park district rules and regulations, which allows people to collect mushrooms, berries, fruit and nuts in the parks. Dorn suggested that the rules require people to not stray off trails when doing this.
- Agreed to hire Premier Physicians Inc. as medical director for the park district, costing $300 a year.
- Adopted pay grade adjustments recommended by the compensation committee, based on a study by an outside consultant.
- Voted to renew its $3 million insurance coverage by Public Entities Pool, costing about $70,000 a year.
- Agreed to contract with K&K Construction, from Weston, for $92,973 to build an addition to the district’s operations building.
- After much discussion, agreed to pay a change order of $53,568 for the new parking lot at the Bradner Preserve. The funding for the parking lot came from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Munger said the contractor had run into some unexpected problems, but agreed that difficulties should have been conveyed to the park district more promptly. Board member Christine Seiler, who said the delay was unacceptable, abstained from voting.