Preservation Parks of Delaware County has a plan in place to return dozens of acres of future parkland in Orange Township to its roots.

Park officials and volunteers earlier this winter began the process of planting 550 balled and burlapped trees and 17,000 seedlings on former farmland along Bale Kenyon Road, directly southeast of the Interstate 71 overpass.

The park district purchased the 65-acre site last year after acquiring a 48-acre site on the west side of I-71 in 2016.

With more purchases planned, the yet-to-be-named park eventually could include about 230 acres.

Chris Roshon, the parks system's natural resources manager, said park workers and volunteers are trying to "restore natural conditions" on the land acquired by Preservation Parks.

"This area wants to be woodland," he said. "If we were to leave it alone, it eventually would be. We're trying to speed up that process."

Workers last fall removed about 8,000 feet of drain line from the fields east of Bale Kenyon Road after the former owner harvested soybeans from the land for the last time.

Roshon said the goal is to populate the site with native vegetation, including buckeye, sumac and sycamore trees, that can "shade out" nonnative plants and act as a habitat for native wildlife.

The district also has undertaken an effort to keep invasive plants such as buckthorn and Callery pear from overtaking the site.

Roshon said in years past, student volunteers from the Olentangy Local School District and area Boy Scout troops have helped with the removal of invasive plants from parkland, along with other projects.

"We have been really fortunate," Roshon said.

Preservation Parks spokeswoman Sue Hagan said via email a concept plan for the site has not been completed, but system officials have an idea of what amenities the park could feature.

She said the park likely will include trails, at least one picnic area and access to Alum Creek for people looking to fish and kayak.

While Preservation Parks has spent $3.61 million on land for the park so far, Clean Ohio grant funding from the state has covered more than $2.6 million, or about 72 percent of the cost.

The district next month expects to close on an additional 26 acres for the park at a cost of $250,000. A state grant will cover about close to three-quarters of the price.

Preservation Parks currently oversees nine Delaware County parks -- including Shale Hollow Park in Lewis Center and Emily Traphagen Park in Liberty Township -- and three trails. Work on a 10th park near Delaware is ongoing.