WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — Two Ohio River islands have been donated to the West Virginia Land Trust, which plans to turn them into nature preserves and venues for recreation.
The properties, Upper Twin Island in Ohio County and Gallipolis Island in Mason County, were recently donated to the trust by private landowner Michael Hoeft, according to local media reports.
The islands, essential habitats for wildlife, will service local communities and tourists once they are restored and opened for public use, West Virginia Land Trust spokeswoman Jessica Spatafore said.
Gallipolis Island was once 88 acres, but erosion has whittled it to 1.5 acres, trust spokesman Ashton Berdine said. In the 1840s, the island was the site of a park with picnic tables, beaches and a playground.
Upper Twin Island is mostly submerged because of a nearby dam.
"The pooling of the river that came with the construction of locks and dams flooded much of the islands' former land mass, then waves from passing barges eroded them even more," Berdine said.
The islands will eventually become part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Berdine said.
Hoeft, who was a fisheries biologist for 27 years, said he's happy to donate the land.
"It's better if the government owns it, because that way it will benefit everybody," he said.