GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis City Commission voted Tuesday to transfer ownership of Gallipolis Island to the West Virginia Land Trust as the organization plans on turning the location into a wildlife refuge for Ohio River aquatic life.
According to information gathered from past commission minutes and meetings, the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approached the commission in 2014 about seeing if it would allow for Gallipolis Island to pass into the hands of the West Virginia Land Trust, along with the ORINWR division.
Past group representatives have claimed the island is an important habitat to certain species of mussels and fish. The group’s aim is to prevent erosion on the north end of the island which has deteriorated slowly over time. Specialized structures, dykes on underwater shelves, may be placed along the north side of the island to prevent erosion and encourage the island’s ability to grow again.
ORINWR manages 22 island refuges along the 362-mile stretch of the Ohio River from Pennsylvania to Kentucky. Once legal paperwork is officially signed, it may take seven years to restore the island. According to City Solicitor Adam Salisbury, once the West Virginia Land Trust assumes care of the island and has completed its restoration, after 10 years, the island’s ownership will be transferred to U.S. government agencies. Gallipolis will maintain any mineral rights.
The island will be used for wildlife first and may be used for some daytime opportunity for hiking and photography. No overnight use or structures will be placed on the island.
Commission members voted unanimously in agreement to approve the transfer. The island will be gifted at no charge to the land trust.
According to information collected from Gallia County Historical Society Director Mary Lee Marchi, when the original French 500 found Gallipolis Island in 1770, they discovered wild grapes. Those grapes were then used to produce a local wine which may have been considered one of the town’s first exported products.
In the 1840s, the island was turned into a kind of resort with beach access, a picnic area and a playground. In the 1860s, steamboats were made on the island. The island at one point supposedly stretched up to parts of Eastern Avenue and below Pine Street.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.
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