David Miller, March 30, 2018
Columbus, Ohio — Yesterday, the 10th District Court of Appeals in Franklin County ruled in favor of Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), keeping the Sawmill Wetlands in the hands of the public, rather than putting it in the hands of a private corporation. The Court reversed the decision by the Common Pleas Court and ruled that ODNR did not breach its contract with the developer, and therefore, ODNR was not obligated to give the company the Sawmill Wetlands for free.
“This decision is a huge victory for our environment, natural resources, and protected public lands in Columbus, and demonstrates that having a robust grassroots and legal strategy can lead to significant victories,” said Trent Dougherty, General Counsel at the Ohio Environmental Council. “Now that the courts have laid this controversy to rest, we are excited to see how ODNR can improve access to the Sawmill Wetlands for all those that love nature and protect this area for current and future generations.”
During September 2016, the OEC, partnering with groups like the Friends of the Sawmill Wetlands, urged ODNR and Governor Kasich to do the right thing and appeal a disastrous trial court decision that would have stripped protections from this important wildlife haven. We once again applaud the State’s choice to protect the Sawmill Wetlands for the people of Columbus; the appellate court’s decision shows the value of that legal action.
Since 2012, thousands of citizens have rallied to protect one of the few remaining forested wetlands within the Columbus I-270 corridor. The Sawmill State Wildlife Education Area is home to numerous plant and animal species. Surrounded by a shopping center and apartments, the wetland is a rare natural area in an urban setting where nature lovers can watch wildlife and the changing seasons. The developer wanted to turn this valuable resource into yet another store, but the court has ensured it remains a treasured green space inside Columbus.
“Our thanks to all the Friends who stuck with us through this long fight to protect this precious property and to our great partners at ODNR and the OEC who did the right thing saving the only natural area in our neighborhood,” said Michelle Shinew, Co-Founder of the Friends of the Sawmill Wetlands.