By Lauren Gibbons
The Columbus Dispatch • Monday July 28, 2014 5:35
CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — Nestled among acres of rolling Pickaway County farmland, the newly christened Bartley Preserve stands out.
The property, formerly owned by the List family, contains slopes and ridges created by glaciers, allowing rare and endangered plants to thrive in seasonal wetlands. It’s in the flyway zone of many bird species as they migrate south for winter. And an unexcavated Adena burial mound has been there for thousands of years, quietly reminding those who pass by of the area’s varied history.
Rows of soybean plants currently cover the soil, but by fall 2015, the Appalachia Ohio Alliance hopes to begin replacing the cash crop with plants that might have been there when the Adena people roamed the plains.
The alliance bought 95 acres of the farm in July 2013 and is in talks with the List family to purchase an adjacent 17 acres, said Steve Fleegal, the organization’s executive director. The alliance coordinates conservation efforts in Franklin, Hocking, Pickaway and Ross counties. It raises money for conservation and agricultural easements on properties with unique geological or archaeological features, making the sites accessible to the public and enhancing natural habitats.
With the help of several local and state groups, including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the alliance plans to protect resources and restore the habitat of native plants and animals that likely existed there before the property was farmed. The project will incorporate local seeds to re-create grasslands on the property, eventually adding locally grown burr oak trees, interpretive signs and a walking trail for public use.
“It’s a progression from what was 100 percent farmland to what will eventually be another ecosystem,” Fleegal said. “It will take years to tweak it and get it right, but it’s important that we get it done.”
The land was first farmed by the Hitler family in the 1830s. Grove City resident Mark List’s parents purchased the property from the Hitlers in 1943 after farming as tenants for several years. Local farmer and amateur botanist Floyd Bartley, for whom the preserve is named, played a role in cementing the land’s biological importance. In the 1940s and 1960s, Bartley collected samples of many plants in the area, including the Bur-head, the Rocky Mountain Bulrush and the Engelmann’s Spikerush.
At Hitler Pond, a seasonal wetland on the property where ODNR chief botanist Rick Gardner recently set up a monitoring plot to map changes over time, these plants and others thrive. It’s impressive, Gardner said, considering it is the only known location of Rocky Mountain Bulrush plants east of the Mississippi River.
“It’s a home for plants that don’t have a home,” he said, adding that more locations could have existed in the past before many seasonal wetland habitats were damaged or destroyed.
Once the soybean crop is harvested this fall, experts will spend time learning more about the contents of the burial mound. Dr. Jarrod Burks, geophysics director at Ohio Valley Archaeology, plans to conduct a noninvasive survey of the mound with a magnetometer to learn what the Adena people left behind.
List still visits the land often, setting up a lawn chair atop the mound and contemplating what it meant to generations of people who lived and died there. He’s convinced that conservation efforts will keep the area relevant while honoring its rich history.
“I think our parents would be very proud of what’s happened,” he said. “We’re just building on the place’s legacy.”