AKRON, Ohio — For Meghan Lugo, White Pond in Akron is much more than just wetlands. The assistant professor and Akron resident said White Pond is a beloved community gathering space where residents go hiking and enjoy nature.
The city of Akron has other plans for White Pond. Officials like the deputy mayor for integrated development, Sean Vollman, have proposed a plan to build new residential and retail development in the area.
“We got approached by a residential developer, who was interested in acquiring the property and developing it,” Vollman said. “They are putting in 250ish townhomes, or ranches, or apartments, along with some retail development.”
Many residents like Lugo are upset by these plans, and she has started a movement to save White Pond.
Several people have spoken out against the proposed development during city council meetings, even making signs to hold up during the meetings.
Lugo also created an Instagram page, @savewhitepond, dedicated to saving the forested wetlands. She has nearly 300 followers on the page.
“This idea that no harm is being done when all of those trees, the trees that we see, or rather the vast majority of them, will be gone,” Lugo said. “These water-ways may still be here, but many of the species, plant and animal life alike, may not survive it.”
According to the EPA, 90% of Ohio’s wetland resources have been destroyed.
Emily Collins is a strategic adviser to the mayor for the city of Akron.
Collins said they do not anticipate a need to fill the wetlands.
“The wetlands themselves are not proposed to be disturbed,” Collins said. “If they are and something changes after the sale of this agreement, that's actually something that will have to go through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."
The city said they will have to remove trees, which is a cause for concern for residents who believe this could pose a threat for the endangered Indiana bat.
“This property is subject to restrictions for development related to the Indiana bat," Collins said. "It roosts during a certain period of time. No one can clear trees, so I think that’s between mid-April and September.”
Even with these restrictions in place, Akron residents like Wren Kohler still worry about the Indiana bat and other species who call White Pond home.
“The Indiana bat, who the Army Corp of Engineers said lives on the ridges here, and they suggest to deal with that, just cut the trees down when they aren’t here,” Kohler said. “Well, they will still come back, but they will find their homes gone. It’s an act of cruelty, if you ask me.”
Lugo would like to see the city stop the plans for development and turn White Pond into an official park.
“Give the land back to the people, have it serve a public purpose. Public land should serve public purposes, they should not go to developers,” Lugo said. “It doesn’t seem wild to me, but yet it’s something we have to fight for in Akron.”
City council isn’t expected to vote on this sale until its Monday meeting at 7 p.m.