A parcel of land near the baseball field off Hamilton Street in Oberlin has long been regarded as special. The land, which includes forest, wetland and a sedge meadow, is home to rare species of birds, salamanders and other wildlife. In August, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy purchased a 63-acre parcel that’s part of Oberlin Great South Woods to preserve the land and protect the wildlife.
“Oberlin South Woods is one part of a larger property area that has been on the radar of land conservancies for many years,” explains Andy McDowell, vice president of Western Field Operations for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a group that works to conserve natural areas, preserve farmland and revitalize urban centers. Since the late 1800s, it’s been considered a high-profile area that should be considered wetlands.”
The former Firelands Land Conservancy named the Oberlin Great South Woods as one of its top three priorities in 2006, when it joined seven other land trusts in a merger that created the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.
The conservancy used a grant from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund to purchase the land, which will be used for passive outdoor recreation, including walking, jogging, birdwatching, picnicking and nature study. The land will not be used for active recreation activities, such as soccer or ball fields, McDowell says, but will provide a great space for school field trips and college studies.
Hikers can enjoy the beauty of the Oberlin South Woods via the Ramsey right-of-way that runs along the eastern boundary of the property. “Anyone can walk that now,” says McDowell, adding that there is ample parking nearby on Hamilton Street. “You can hike down the Ramsey right-of-way and then go birding.”
More importantly, the land serves as a protective habitat for rare species. “There are unique salamanders, rare ones here,” says McDowell. “There are many species of birds that are on watch lists as threatened — the magnolia warbler, the wood thrush and the chimney swift.”
The property is rich with habitats such as vernal pools, forest made up of maple, hickory and oak and other habitats that provide shelter, food and nesting areas for birds, amphibians and other wildlife. The buffers along the drainages help control runoff, prevent erosion and avoid flooding in downstream properties. 
McDowell is quick to point out that the Western Reserve Land Conservancy is not a land management company, but rather its concern centers around preserving the lands. “We open the property by permission only, but we never say no,” he says.