Local records show that at the end of December, the museum paid $573,225 to buy about 13 acres of land near Mary Ann Lane from Phyllis E. Chucta and others. The land, located on the eastern end of the island and north of the airport, will be added to the museum’s Scheele Preserve. The Clean Ohio Fund provided money for the purchase.
The museum owns 220 acres on the island as nature preserves, about one-fifth of the island, and plays an important role in habitat preservation for birds, animals and plants on the island, said Renee Boronka, associate director for natural areas for the museum.
The Scheele Preserve is home to two rare animal species, the Lake Erie watersnake and the Eastern fox snake, and also to the leafy blue flag iris.
The 220 acres on the island are divided into nature preserves, Boronka said, and most have to stay closed to preserve them.
“These communities on Kelleys Island are really fragile ecosystems,” she said.
The natural areas on Kelleys Island, and other islands in Lake Erie, are very important to migrating birds. Birds flying across the water stop on the islands to refuel resting and eating.
Expanding the natural areas with purchases such as the one completed last month aids that, Boronka said.
“It gives them more habitat to utilize when they are trying to make that trek,” she said.
The museum, located in the University Circle area of Cleveland, has a longtime history on Kelleys Island.
“The museum has owned land on Kelleys Island since the 1920s,” Boronka said. “We are the original owners of the Glacial Grooves as well as Inscription Rock.”
A document posted on the museum’s website explains that the museum acquired Inscription Rock in 1922 and the Glacial Grooves in 1923 but then turned them over to the Ohio State Museum in the 1930s (now the Ohio History Connection, as the state’s historical society is known.)
The museum bought 823 acres in 1955, giving 425 acres to Ohio, establishing Kelleys Island State Park.
According to the website document, the museum has eight nature preserves on the island.
Scheele Preserve is home to a number of native species, and to owls, the document says.
“The majority of this preserve protects an Alvar Forest of hackberry, juniper and rough-leaf dogwood trees. Alvar habitats form in places where a thin layer of soil tops flat limestone bedrock. Because this soil is usually less than 25 cm deep and has an elevated pH, it supports an unusual blend of boreal, southern and prairie plant species,” it says.
“The wet flats beneath and surrounding the forest are dominated by eastern star sedge, slender wedge-grass and Muskingum sedge — the latter being unique to this location,” it says.
The Scheele Preserve is also where retired Heidelberg University professor Tom Bartlett pursues his owl-banding research efforts. Bartlett is known as a “master bird bander” and is a research associate for the museum, Boronka said.