Eells Park in Bettsville has bird sanctuary

PHOTO BY VICKI JOHNSON Wren houses, bluebird boxes and purple martin houses have been placed on 5 acres of H.P. Eells Park as a new bird sanctuary.

Bettsville’s H.P. Eells Park is home to a new bird sanctuary, which is just one option village officials are using to breathe new life into the 65-year-old park.

“We don’t have the swimming beach any more out there currently, and we’re trying to use the property for its best purpose,” said Bettsville Administrator John Dabrunz.

He said Bettsville Village Council approved the creation of bird habitat on the north section of the park closest to town.

“It’ll start as a small bird sanctuary on 5 acres out there,” he said. “We got in contact with Pheasants Forever and Seneca Conservation District and they assisted us with planting switchgrass and wildflowers.”

He said the birds can start using the houses right away.

“It’ll probably take about a year before we see a whole lot out of the plantings,” he said.

This spring and early summer, Dabrunz and others have been working to place bird houses on the area.

“Purple martin houses have been up since the end of March and beginning of April,” he said.

And 20 bluebird boxes and wren houses have been added in May and June.

“We hope in the future to get on board with starting some sort of honeybee area out there,” he said. “That’s in the future, but we would like help with the depletion of honey bees out there.”

The village received a grant for the bird boxes made from recycled materials with the help of Charlene Watkins, executive director of Seneca Regional Planning Commission.

“She and I brainstormed the idea,” he said.

Watkins said she visited with village and township officials to find out what projects Regional Planning might be able to assist with.

“One of those in Bettsville was Eells Park,” she said. “Someone had the idea of putting in a bird sanctuary, so I did a little research for them. We applied for an OSS grant for bird houses.”

The village received a $1,500 grant from Ottawa Sandusky Seneca Joint Solid Waste District’s competitive grant program to buy two purple martin houses and 10 each of wren and bluebird houses made from recycled materials.

“Now they’re using a space that was unused, providing a new area for the village residents and township residents to enjoy,” Watkins said.

“We just helped write the grant for them because that’s one of the services we provide to the villages and the townships to help them bring some money in for projects,” she said. “It’s just one of the many feasible ideas for HP Eells Park so they can start using it for different options.”

One of those options, she said, is turning one of the ball fields into a dog park. Village council was scheduled to vote Thursday night on whether to apply for a $25,000 Bark for Your Park grant from PetSafe, an animal-related company.

“They’re looking at opportunities to do things, but we have to phase them in,” Watkins said. Villages and townships have limited funds to work with.

In the future, Dabrunz said he hopes Seneca County Park District will agree to provide nature programs at the park.

Regarding the rest of the park, Dabrunz said it’s open for public use dawn to dusk every day, except the swimming beach, which is in its third season of being closed due to funding issues.

“There will be Fourth of July fireworks during the 2017 summer season thanks, for the most part, to a silent investor,” the park’s website states.

There are three shelter houses available for rent as well as a gazebo, walking paths, grassy areas, picnic tables and grills. There are ball fields and a basketball court as well as volleyball and tennis courts.

“There’s a real nice playground out there,” he said. “Overall, it’s a real nice place to walk around.”

Although the quarry isn’t open to swimming, he said it’s open for fishing.

“There’s access for fishing all around it,” he said.

A fishing license is required for anglers ages 16 and older. Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife regulations apply.

The park had its origins as a recreation area for the employees and families of Basic Inc., one of the area’s largest employers for many years.

A park history on its website says the park opened in 1952 and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2002. It was named in honor of Howard P. Eells, who served as president and chief executive officer of Basic from 1921 to 1965, and continued on the board of directors until he turned 80 in 1972. Under his guidance, the company grew from a maker of blast furnace flux and other stone-related materials to the largest independent producer of steel-making refractories in the country.

The history details the park through its first 50 years.

For more information, visit the park website at hpeellspark.com or its Facebook page for updates.

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