The habitat on Kelleys Island is called Lake Erie Island. Many species that thrive on this limestone-based island don’t occur in the Cleveland area. Typical plant species, such as hackberry and prickly ash, found in forest and shrub thickets on the island, are noteworthy host plants for the caterpillars of the Snout Butterfly and Giant Swallowtail, respectively. Several rare plants, listed by the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, occur on the Museum’s island properties. The Scheele Preserve has one of five occurrences of rock elm in Ohio and our Jones Preserve on Long Point is home to the Lake Erie Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon insularum), a recently de-listed Federally Endangered species.
The first natural lands the Museum ever owned were on Kelleys Island, long before the Museum established its Natural Areas Program. The Museum was the first to own and protect the Glacial Grooves and Inscription Rock, both significant historical and geological sites on the island. Inscription Rock was acquired on June 16, 1922, and the Glacial Grooves on February 14, 1923. Though we owned them for only a decade, the Museum was instrumental in ensuring that these sites were protected.
In the 1930s, the Museum deeded both sites to the Ohio State Museum (now the Ohio Historical Society). At that time, the Ohio State Museum intended to cover both sites to protect them from the elements. Sadly, Glacial Grooves was never covered, most likely because of the national economy at the time. Both sites are still owned and managed by the Ohio Historical Society.
In the 1950s, the Museum and the Kelleys Island Lime and Transport Co. began negotiating over land on the island. In 1955, Museum Board President Harold T. Clark authorized the purchase of 823 acres on the island for $30,000. Of this, 425 acres were given to the state of Ohio to establish state parks on the island. Many parcels were sold to individuals, establishing today’s network of cottages.
The Museum retained sites on the island with natural and archaeological significance. Four of our eight current preserves there -- Woodford Woods, The Glade, Coleman Tract and the Scheele Preserve (dedicated in honor of Museum Director William Scheele in 1999) -- were acquired in the 1955 deal.
Between 1976 and 1982, brothers Thomas and Brooks Jones donated parcels totaling 21 acres on a narrow strip of land that juts from the island’s northeast corner called Long Point. This area is a vital stopover site for migratory birds crossing Lake Erie -- particularly warblers, which prefer mature forests close to the lake for their rest stops. In recognition of the Jones brothers’ generosity in donating Long Point to the Museum, in 2006, Long Point was renamed the Jones Preserve. Since 1996, the Jones Preserve has been a key research site for certified bird-bander and Museum Research Associate Tom Bartlett. Tom, wife Paula and other volunteers have mist-netted and banded 3,825 spring migrants here.
In 1997, with the assistance of a group of Kelleys Island residents, the Museum protected a relatively large parcel of land on the island. These individuals came together and purchased a 17.5 acre tract of land in an effort to protect it from development. This protected tract is known as the Sweet Valley Preserve, due to its location within a low depression running east-west that also shelters the island's best vineyards. Museum ownership of Sweet Valley ensures it will stay in its natural state for future generations to enjoy.
Seven years later, the Museum had the opportunity to enlarge its Scheele Preserve by 3.2 acres to 28 acres. The majority of this preserve protects an Alvar Forest of hackberry, juniper and rough-leaf dogwood trees. Alvar habitats form in places where a thin layer of soil tops flat limestone bedrock. Because this soil is usually less than 25 cm deep and has an elevated pH, it supports an unusual blend of boreal, southern and prairie plant species. The wet flats beneath and surrounding the forest are dominated by eastern star sedge, slender wedge-grass and Muskingum sedge -- the latter being unique to this location.
The Scheele Preserve is also home to Tom Bartlett’s long-term owl banding research project. For the last decade, Tom has banded owls an average of 15 nights per year. In 2012, he spent 39 nights at Scheele setting up nets and banding a record 143 Northern Saw-whets Owls -- exceeding his previous season high, 53 owls, set in 2010. In all, Tom has banded a total of 354 Northern Saw-whets at Scheele. Each fall, the Natural Areas Division hosts an overnight field trip on the island to see Tom’s owl banding firsthand. (Watch for this trip in the fall Education brochure.)
Our most recent protection effort on the island took place in May 2012. Together with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC), the Museum protected an additional 78 acres of rare habitat on the island. The two new natural areas, the Quinn Preserve and the Huntley-Beatty Quarry, are owned by the Kelleys Island Park District and protected through conservation easements held jointing by the Museum and the WRLC.
The Huntley-Beatty Quarry contains an excellent example of the globally imperiled Great Lakes Alvar habitat. A Museum survey revealed a dozen State Endangered plants growing on this property, including Caribbean spike-rush and Philadelphia panic-grass.
At present, more than 800 acres, or approximately one-third of Kelleys Island, is protected in its natural state. Of this, the Museum stewards 196 acres, or 25 percent of the preserve land on the island.
Follow Ohio Route 2 west of Cleveland to Route 269 north. Proceed north on Route 269 to Route 163 east. Follow Route 163 east into Marblehead. The Kelleys Island ferry boat line is located at 510 W. Main Street (across from the police department and fire station). Scheele Preserve is located off Monagan Road on Kelleys Island.