Those were among the dilemmas Metro Parks, Serving Summit County faced as it began developing its new Springfield Bog Metro Park.
The district this week quietly opened its new park that in time will combine pristine wetlands with acres of 10-foot-tall prairie grasses. An official dedication ceremony will be held in the spring.
The 255-acre tract off Portage Line Road, south of Sanitarium Road, is the district's 14th park in Summit County and the first in Springfield Township.
The park includes a trail that winds 1.6 miles through what will be a tall-grass prairie that was planted atop the continental divide between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.
The trail runs along the edges of two wetlands, past the future site of an observation deck next to the most pristine bog and circles a new man-made bog.
Markers have been installed to delineate the route of the trail through the prairie that was planted in late November, just before the snow fell.
The park features 108 acres of wetlands, including a 12-acre kettle bog, another 5-acre bog and a now-overgrown 91-acre wetland where vegetables were once grown.
The site has ''a ton of water, even if most of it's not visible at the surface,'' said Michael Johnson, chief of resource management for the park district. ''That's been a big part of our challenge in developing plans for this park.''
That resulted in the park district creating a new wetland that is more visitor friendly than the natural wetlands on the site.
Building the new 1-acre bog required the excavation of 20,000 cubic yards of soil and digging down 10 feet. That linked the wetland with the uppermost aquifer. There are no inlets or outlets.
That means the size of the bog will grow to about 11/2 acres when the groundwater is high and shrink to about three-fourths of an acre at low-water times, park spokesman Rob Curtis said.
The park district had native seeds planted on the 10-acre site around the new bog.
Wildlife, especially waterfowl, already like the new wetland that cost $139,149, he said.
The park district will need to spend $4,000 to $5,000 to complete the project in the spring, after the snow melts.
There is evidence that additional bogs once existed on the site but were lost over the years to farming and other practices, Johnson said.
Re-establishing a bog provides a good way to introduce park
visitors to such natural areas and ''creates a feature that will be interesting and accessible to park visitors,'' he said.
It will take two to three years for the park's newly planted prairie to fully mature, Johnson said.
Ohio Prairie Nursery of Hiram planted the prairie, using 2,080 pounds of seed. The price tag: $173,744.
The planting included 37 species of grasses and shrubby plants, all native to Ohio. The four most-planted species were side-oats grama, partridge peas, little bluestem and nodding wild rye.
The grasslands, as they develop, will attract songbirds, hummingbirds and butterflies. Park officials are hoping that the prairie will be attractive to the Henslow's sparrow, a grasslands bird at grave risk in Ohio because of disappearing habitat.
In fact, the expectation is that Springfield Bog will — with its wetlands, grasslands and wooded tracts — become the prime birding spot in Summit County, Johnson said.
Firestone Metro Park in South Akron is arguably the best birding spot in the park district.
Park officials intend to keep a close eye on the new prairie as it develops to ensure it is not overrun by invasive species. It had been planted in soybeans to thwart invasives, and the land got a dose of herbicide to further protect the prairie planting, he said.
The park district has a few small prairie patches but is excited at developing 140 acres in prairie, Johnson said. It had been considering such a development for a number of years and was looking for an appropriate site.
There is a history of prairies in Summit County, but park officials have no knowledge of prairies being found specifically at the Springfield Bog site, he said.
''Based on what we know, it's reasonable and could have occurred, but we don't know,'' he said.
The development of the prairie also fits in with surrounding farms that border the new park, he said.
A parking lot has been built off Portage Line Road, but restrooms must still be constructed. The park district ran into delays because of state permitting and bidding specifications, said park planner David Whited. The restrooms are expected to be be completed by mid-spring, he said.
Researchers from the University of Akron found 59 artifacts on the site during an archaeological survey, said Linda Whitman of UA's Community Archaeology Program.
The stone tools and implements were from three time periods stretching from about 3000 B.C. to 500 B.C., she said. The university, working with the park district, intends to continue its archaeological investigation.
Keith Shy, director-secretary of the park district, is thrilled with the development of Springfield Bog.
Adding the prairie boosts park diversity and offers a new and different attraction for park visitors who might not be drawn to wetlands, he said.
''It was a unique opportunity for us,'' he said. ''It may be the only opportunity for a grassland, an open-area type of park in Summit County.''
He said the partnership with the Trust for Public Land, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in the Cleveland suburb of Cuyahoga Heights made the purchase of Springfield Bog possible.
That helped the park district get $2.5 million in state funds for the land purchase.
Shy said the park district is exploring the option of adding a trail to make the park more accessible to students at nearby Young Elementary School in the Springfield school district.
''Frankly, we're pretty tickled with what's taking shape at Springfield Bog,'' he said. ''What we've got there is something pretty special.''
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.