State wants to enlarge Fort Ancient preserve for World Heritage bid

Warren County joined efforts to enlarge the Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve to improve the bid to qualify it and other Native American sites in Ohio for World Heritage status.

On Tuesday, the county commissioners approved a resolution supporting the Ohio History Connection’s application for a state grant to help pay for at least part of a 120-acre former camp property next to Fort Ancient’s 764-acre site near along the Little Miami River in Warren County.

“It just makes sense from a land-banking perspective,” Commissioner Dave Young said.

Jennifer Aultman, World Heritage project coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, told the commissioners the land, formerly Kings Domain Camp, would help buffer and protect Fort Ancient.

“Right now, we have an opportunity we are trying to take advantage of we think would benefit local residents and World Heritage,” Aultman said during a work session with the commissioners.

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Aultman distributed a new booklet outlining the World Heritage bid for Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, eight sites including Fort Ancient. The state history group and supporters for the World Heritage project are also working on issues with sites in Newark and Chillicothe, she said.

In May 2018, U.S. Department of the Interior announced that it officially invited the bid as the country's next nomination for World Heritage List consideration.

Aultman said the bid "dossier" was being built in anticipation of review by the UNESCO committee.

At this point, plans call for purchase of 57 acres of the land, Aultman said, because of issues with purchasing part of the former park that has buildings with a state grant being sought for the project. Ultimately, the entire camp parcel could be purchased for the project.

The rest of the camp property could be sold to another camp, Aultman said.

Specifically, the land acquisition would “lock down the view shed” from the the highest elevation of Fort Ancient by preventing residential development or logging, Aultman told the commissioners.

“I think the state’s got better uses for its money than to buy up a lot of vacant land,” Commissioner Tom Grossmann said before approving the resolution.

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A resolution draft indicated a Clean Ohio Fund Greenspace Conservation grant would be sought from the Ohio Public Works Commission to help pay for the land. A 25 percent “local match” would be required, according to the draft.

Aultman said the goal was to “protect Fort Ancient and share it with the public.”

Plans for the land acquisition include two rounds of grant funding, as well as capital funding, she said.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is gauging “the essential nature of the Kings Domain Property in protecting the Little Miami River’s freshwater ecosystem,” according to the draft resolution.

The acquisition also follows reactions from neighbors at a public meeting last year, Aultman said.

“No one wants blinking lights, neon signs,” she said.

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