Two recently acquired pieces of land by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will mean a more seamless tract of mainland property at the Ohio River Island National Wildlife Refuge's headquarters in Williamstown and also guarantees future access to the refuge's nearby riverside facilities.
Though the purchases together total just slightly less than an acre, they will mean a less disjointed piece of property and more public access to facilities on the refuge, said Tylar Greene, public affairs specialist for the northeast region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"An acquisition like this on the mainland is really great for the Ohio River Island National Wildlife Refuge because most of the land we own is islands and that is not always as easily accessible," he said.
In addition to 22 islands spanning 365 miles of the Ohio River, the refuge also oversees four tracts of mainland. The newest purchase, finalized Nov. 26, brings the total land area at the refuge's headquarters on 3982 Waverly Road to 95.2 acres.
Among other things the property there includes a riverside parking lot abutting the river, which includes handicap access to a public fishing area and a kayak launch point.
The parking lot is accessible by a dirt and gravel road that leads to the river from Waverly Road. Though the refuge previously had right-of-ways in place with two land owners to use the road, the new acquisitions give the organization ownership of the thoroughfare into the foreseeable future.
The Ohio River Island National Wildlife Refuge recently acquired two tracts of land adjacent to its headquarters on Waverly Road in Williamstown.
The refuge paid $28,500 total for the .85 acre and a .09 acre tracts.
The tracts include a grassy area which will provide a habitat for pollinators and migratory birds and an access road leading from Waverly Road to the refuge-owned plot of land on the Ohio River.
"We wanted the authority to make changes, improvements to the roadway," explained Sara Siekierski, deputy refuge manager.
The project to acquire the road has been in place since before Siekierski came to the refuge more than three years ago, she said.
"The land owners have been very patient, good neighbors," she said.
One land owner decided to also sell a grassy piece of land next to the access road. That piece of land fills in the gap between two other parcels the refuge owns.
"We're going to do some wildflower planting and maybe put some shrubs in to add diversity," said Siekierski.
The two tracts of land total 0.94 acres and cost $28,500, which came from the United States Land and Water Conservation Fund, said Greene.
Over the past two years, the refuge has acquired 52.6 acres of land including another tract of mainland across from Muskingum Island, just downstream of the current headquarters.
However, the acquisition will likely be the final one for some time, said Siekierski.
"We would be supportive of (new acquisitions) but we don't have any projects currently planned," she said.
A visitor center at refuge headquarters is open Monday through Friday year-round, except for federal holidays.