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County swaps property with rancher in Ottawa County - KOAM TV 7

County swaps property with rancher in Ottawa County

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Ottawa County will soon get a nature walking trail thanks to a land swap with a resident.

The new nature reserve will be south of Miami and commissioners say it will also mean a new boat ramp for paddle-fishers in the county.

At one time David Payne managed 47 properties on the land south of Miami, but after a flood in 2007 the whole area was declared uninhabitable.  Soon the county bought out houses around him, leaving a checkerboard pattern.

On Monday, Payne and the county decided to trade some pieces of land.

"He got much more acreage than I did, but that wasn't my concern - was that I would be together that way," says Payne.

While Payne is already using his new land for cattle grazing, the county commissioner who spearheaded the project says they will add 600 trees for a wildlife area on their new property.

"As we kind of got to thinking the processes through, it was just pretty much a no brainer - this is all flood plain anyway, so we had it all cleaned up and all the homes and foundations removed," says Ottawa County Commissioner Russell Earls.

Earls says the area in part will act as mitigation for a new boat ramp for paddle fisherman next to Conner Bridge.  He says the project suggested by the Department of Fish and Wildlife four years ago has been on hold until the county to find a way to replace wildlife loss for the project.

"That's why we have to mitigate, because we're disturbing wetlands, we're disturbing their natural habitat," says Earls.

Payne says he likes the wildlife recreation idea.

"That was a wise choice, for Mr. Earls to make this a wildlife refuge, because we've got several turkey, wildcat, bobcat, it's just a nice piece of property when it isn't flooded," says Payne.

After a day of ownership Payne is already fencing and says it feels good to have his land checker boarded no more.

Commissioner Earls says the trees will go in the ground sometime this Fall.  He says the boat ramp still needs final mitigation approval from the Department of Fish and Wildlife in Washington, but could go in as early as this Fall.

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