Fall 2019 Stories about Manhattan Marsh

created Nov 7, 2019

During our big day of birdwatching within the Toledo city limits, which occurs on the third Saturday in May as part of the North Coast Open, we usually visit Manhattan Marsh, like we did this past May.

We park along a road and walk across and peer at the marsh through a small opening between trees and shrubs. It's a limited view, but we usually see new birds for the day. It would be fun to stroll around the entire marsh, and we might get that chance some day when the Metroparks develop that land

Back in 2000 or 2001, I went for a walk around Manhattan Marsh with Rick VanLandingham who gave the group his ideas for the marsh that included a visitors center that was partially submerged in the marsh. His plans were bold. Rick has been advocate for Manhattan Marsh for a long time. His dedication has been impressive.

Excerpts from a Nov 6, 2019 Toledo Blade Letter to the Editor:

I wish to recognize and thank Rick VanLandingham for his 30-year effort of passion, energy, and perseverance regarding saving the Manhattan Marsh/​Buckeye Basin Greenbelt area, or what’s left of it, from becoming a dump and then being paved over with yet another road.

Mr. VanLandingham’s energy for clearing brush and building an observation deck is appreciated and the possible legal action against him is very unfortunate. Obviously, the wheels of government action turn much slower than his desires.

Perhaps a well-deserved goodwill gesture by Metroparks Toledo would be to still include Mr. VanLandingham in the Metropark construction. Also, I am in favor of naming a trail or entrance or both in his honor. He deserves it.

If the park opens someday, then I agree that something within the park needs to be named after Rick.

Excerpts from a related Oct 23, 2019 Blade story:

Richard VanLandingham faces trespassing, vandalism charges.

Metroparks Toledo has taken the rare action of filing criminal vandalism, criminal mischief, and criminal trespassing charges against an environmental activist who for months voluntarily worked with the park district on its plans to build a North Toledo metropark in and around the area known as Manhattan Marsh.

In their police report, Metroparks rangers accused the pair of defacing park district land by building an unauthorized wooden structure along the east end of Manhattan Marsh, in the 700 block of Suder Avenue. The project, which the park district has since torn down, began in late August, according to the report.

“VanLandingham can be seen, throughout their duration at the site, cutting brush and trees, moving building materials, attaching railings and decking material, and actively working on the site,” the report states, citing video footage obtained by a pair of surveillance cameras.

An observation deck now that contains a little bigger view of the marsh would be greatly appreciated. Why not make that a temporary addition until real park development occurs?

More excerpts from the October 2019 Blade story:

Mr. VanLandingham said in an Oct. 12 Facebook post that he believes he was unfairly cited by the park district, and maintains he and other volunteers were in the process of building a small observation deck adjacent to the Metroparks land in support of the future Metropark. He said his crew also cleaned up litter, including broken glass.

Mr. VanLandingham grew up in Rossford but has lived in North Toledo for the better part of 30 years, focusing much of his attention over the past three decades on trying to protect the last remaining urban wetlands in that part of the city. In 1996, he chained himself to a bulldozer in an attempt to stop a road project that caused several of those wetlands to be destroyed.

In an interview Tuesday night, Mr. VanLandingham called the charges a “political prosecution” and said that if he did anything wrong it was his failure to obtain a permit from the city of Toledo to build the structure. He maintains the city owns the land in question, not Metroparks Toledo.

He said the value of what Metroparks destroyed was well into the thousands of dollars.

Both Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Zenk previously said some of Mr. VanLandingham’s ideas were incorporated into planning for its upcoming Manhattan Marsh Metropark, which is expected to be the final piece in Metroparks Toledo’s long-term goal of someday having every Lucas County resident live within five miles of a Metropark.

The remnants of what were once a much wider expanse of historic urban wetlands in North Toledo still provide “critical stopover habitat for over 100 species of migratory songbirds and waterfowl within one of North America’s most significant migratory flyways,” a board resolution from last February states.

The marsh is in a historic North Toledo neighborhood once known as the Village of Manhattan, which dates back to the early 1800s.

The project has been mired in delays, partly because of cost overruns and objections raised by Mr. VanLandingham. Construction has not begun, and there is no opening date yet.

Metroparks Toledo now owns 78 acres of land in that part of the city, and hopes to wind up with 90 acres for Manhattan Marsh.

About $475,000 has come from a U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service grant.

Metroparks Toledo is contributing $625,000 toward the project as well. Toledo city councilmen also agreed in 2018 to have the city contribute $241,500 toward restoring Manhattan Marsh.