Urbana’s former “city farm” on the south side of U.S. Route 36 just west of Muzzy Road is undergoing a transformation as owner Morrow Gravel Company, doing business in Urbana as Urbana Sand and Gravel, begins a decades-long sand-gravel extraction project.
“We will be mining on the farm the next 40 to 50 years,” said Dennis Garrison, president of Morrow Gravel Company’s Aggregate Division, of the 150-acre property.
Currently and perhaps for the next year, the project will focus on three acres in the southwest corner of the field, he said.
Passersby are seeing earth-moving equipment on the land and a berm created of stripped soil along Route 36.
Garrison said that in March to May, the stripping of soil on those three acres will progress to extracting sand and gravel and the berm will be landscaped with grass and trees.
The berm, he said, “provides a safety barrier and landscape barrier from the highway … People driving by won’t have direct sight. They may see the top of a piece of equipment.
“The (goal) is to have minimal impact on surrounding neighbors and the community,” he said.
Garrison said the processing of extracted sand and gravel will not occur on the “city farm.”
Instead, the material will be conveyed to and processed at Urbana Materials, a Morrow Gravel Company plant on Muzzy Road. Access to the plant will be through an opening in the tree line at the back of the “city farm.”
Garrison said sand and water will be reached as workers initially excavate to 30-40 feet below the surface. In about a year, following the extraction of sand and gravel, the three-acre parcel will become a lake.
Workers then will proceed to an adjacent area, about three to four acres, and repeat the process, he said, adding that anticipated sales of sand and gravel will determine the pace of the project.
Garrison said areas of the property not being excavated will continue to be rented for the planting of crops.
“There probably are 40 to 50 years of reserves,” he said, adding work on each section is expected to take about a year.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources establishes setbacks for such mining projects.
Work is to remain at least 120 feet from the Mad River, located west of the property. A soil berm has been built separating the field from the river.
There also are setback regulations for roadways and for the residential lot in the field. Garrison said the homeowners are aware of the situation and will be approached when the mining operation nears their property.
When the project is finished, 40 to 50 years from now, the field will be transformed into a lake, similar, Garrison said, to the property to the south mined by American Aggregate decades ago and now a series of lakes between Route 36 and Old Troy Pike.
“It will be the same type of reclamation process,” he said.
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.