Heath is leasing 40 acres from the Thomas J. Evans Foundation as part of an effort to provide another access to the 200-acre Forry Preserve.

Heath is leasing 40 acres from the Thomas J. Evans Foundation as part of an effort to provide another access to the 200-acre Forry Preserve.

"It's part of that flat grassland that goes next to the river, where the (Heath High School) ball fields are," Heath Mayor Richard Waugh said.

Waugh said the Staggers family of Staggers Excavating had owned the property. He said he had learned that the family was selling the property and asked a family representative if the city could obtain it.

Waugh then contacted the Thomas J. Evans Foundation, which agreed to purchase the land and lease it to the city. Heath entered into the lease Aug. 19. The land will be leased to the city at no cost for the next 10 years.

John Groff, chief of Heath's division of building and zoning, said the land is north of Irving-Wick Drive East and east of the south fork of the Licking River. It runs east of Hoback Park from the river, across the railroad tracks and northeast around the River Oaks subdivision. It connects to the Forry Preserve near the River Oaks subdivision. The preserve is south of Licking View Drive and extends northeast behind the city's wastewater plant on Licking View Drive.

Waugh said the acreage would allow the city to eventually build low-impact hiking and bike trails, although no plans currently are in place to develop more trails in the near future.

The Forry Preserve includes 230 acres of woods, ravines, hills and floodplain. The city acquired the preserve in 2002 with a grant through the Ohio Public Works Commission.

Waugh said the area includes a lot of history, with old logging roads and Native American entrenchments, and a lot of natural features, such as vernal pools, which are home to many critters.

"It's very remote," he said.

Waugh said the green space is a nice addition to the city's park system, which includes seven parks encompassing more than 400 acres, along with a water park and a bike-trail system, according to information from the city.

Neither a Staggers family representative nor an Evans Foundation representative could be reached for comment.

lwince@thisweeknews.com