Jeff Jostpille and his Environmental Science students and Envirothon Team members scour the banks of the Auglaize River behind Memorial Hall while making a plan for new plants to enhance a new Riverwalk. (Photo submitted)
Jeff Jostpille and his Environmental Science students and Envirothon Team members scour the banks of the Auglaize River behind Memorial Hall while making a plan for new plants to enhance a new Riverwalk. (Photo submitted)
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FORT JENNINGS — While COVID-19 has stalled state funding for the Freedom Square project in Fort Jennings, a more than $100,000 Clean Ohio Grant will help jumpstart work on the Riverwalk, a secondary part of the project.

“We did receive $106,000 to do the Riveralk,” Project Chair Larry Streets said. “The total cost for the Riverwalk is $143,569 and the village will pick up the rest.”

The Environmental Science class of juniors and the Envirothon Team have been tapped to help figure out what should and shouldn’t be along the Riverwalk as far as vegetation.

“We worked out there Wednesday. What we did is to tag the trees that will stay. They want a total restoration of the bank and of course views of the river for the walk,” science teacher and Envirothon Team advisor Jeff Jostpille said. “We have lots of invasive things like honeysuckle, Ailanthus (tree of heaven), some groundcovers that creeped in from former residences, callery pear and some privot along with lots of weeds.

Many of the smaller silver maple and hackberry will have to come out as well as those that are too close and growing in clumps. There are also some ornamentals from former landscaping along the upper back that will be removed. Many trees on the actual slope of the bank are also bent, broken, bark is torn due to flooding, etc.”

The teens were also asked to think about the plantings that will be used.

“We are looking at some native trees, include white, red and pin oak, tulip tree or yellow poplar, redbud, sycamore and Kentucky Coffee trees,” Jostpille said. “There is really a lack of diversity on that section of the bank. Smaller plants that are native and could be used for planting include serviceberry, paw paw, sassafras and dogwood.”

Jostpille said the students had not really heard much about the project before this week.

“I had been talking to Larry, along with Superintendent Nick Langhals, since last year about what role the school and the students could play,” he said. “The kids seemed to be kind of awed at the idea of the scope and cost of something like this and how it all had to be applied for and such. I had explained to them about the letters needed, the financial budget information required, the legal issues of working along a water body, the architectural aspects, the surveying, and easements required from the landowners, etc.”

Work on the Riverwalk is expected to start in the spring.

The Freedom Square project is next to Memorial Hall in Jennings and will be dedicated to veterans. Plans also include a grassy area with a shelterhouse with restrooms and seating, a grill, parking and commemorative monuments and plaques.