Fallen Timbers park hopes get boost; Study urges link to U.S. system

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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A National Park Service report to be released today calls the Fallen Timbers battlefield “nationally significant” and says it should be included in the National Park System.

Preservationists said the report gives legitimacy to their quest for the millions of dollars needed to buy the battlefield from Toledo and transform it into a park.

“We are thrilled that it’s come to fruition,” said Marianne Duvendack, vice president of the Fallen Timbers Battlefield Preservation Commission. “We always knew that it was worthy of inclusion.”

The park service study does not say the area should be turned into a national park. Instead, it says the battlefield should be made into an “affiliated unit” of the park system. That would mean that park personnel and resources could be used to assist preservationists on the battlefield.

Without the affiliated-unit status, protection of the site “would become increasingly difficult,” the report says.

“Affiliation with the National Park System adds enormous strength to the partnership [of local preservationists] by linking the Fallen Timbers Battlefield site in importance and purpose to those areas managed by the National Park Service,” it says.

Preservationists said the report should help them raise more than $7 million that may be needed to buy the land from the city of Toledo.

“People are saying, `Oh, this thing has life,”‘ said Maumee Mayor Steve Pauken. “I’m very confident that we’ll reach an agreement. Things really have come along nicely.”

The city of Toledo bought the battlefield in 1987, before archaeologists determined the 1794 battle was fought on that land. A historical marker is on a nearby site by mistake.

In the capital budget passed earlier this month, the state government allocated $2 million for the purchase of the battlefield property for preservation. The city of Maumee has contributed $500,000.

But that is far short of the city of Toledo’s asking price, which Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has set at $7.2 million. The mayor has said he wants the city to get as much as it can for the land because the extra revenue will be used to reduce the amount of debt the city will incur to fund the Jeep project.

Mr. Pauken said he believes the price tag is negotiable, and that a state-mandated survey of the battlefield may produce a different estimate of the land’s worth.

The park report says that “subject to the availability of funds,” the park service could contribute to those costs. It identifies $11.4 million in “possible NPS responsibilities for the affiliated area.” That total includes $5 million for the acquisition of the site and $5 million for an interpretive center.

But it is unclear whether any of that money will be available.

After Congress reconvenes in January, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and Sen. Mike DeWine (R., O.) will reintroduce legislation to have Fallen Timbers named an affiliated site. But it is undecided if that legislation will allocate federal dollars for the project, according to Miss Kaptur’s spokesman, Steve Katich.

Mr. Pauken said he does not believe the affiliated-unit legislation would include any federal allocations.

The brief battle, fought on Aug. 20, 1794, pitted the army of Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne against a band of Native American tribes. The American victory, and the treaty that followed it, gave the young United States Ohio, Detroit, a part of Indiana, and a safe passage on the Ohio River.

The Toledo-owned land is inside the city borders of Maumee. Once the land is purchased, preservationists hope to transfer control of it to a group experienced in park management, such as the Metro parks or the Ohio Historical Society.

Ms. Duvendack said her group is seeking contributions from federal, county, and private sources, and hopes to have the land purchased by the end of 1999. Their plan calls for the park to be operational by Ohio’s Bicentennial, March 1, 2003.