“Come Home to Nature” is the Geauga Park District theme for 2016.
Director John Oros must not have gotten the memo, as evidenced by his decision to allow snowmobiles on the Observatory Park trails.
Makes one wonder exactly what our park director’s idea of nature is.
If It Ain’t Broke …
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s a lesson yet to be learned by Probate Judge Timothy Grendell, who is once again meddling in a public park district that was functioning just fine, thank you.
This time, it’s the Russell Township Park District. Get ready for what’s bound to be yet another completely unnecessary and unproductive bumpy ride through the self-serving machinations of Grendell.
The Russell Park Commission oversees about 400 scattered acres of park land. For the last 16 years, until Grendell decided to “fix” what wasn’t broken, three commissioners, each with special skills and knowledge, contributed to the smooth and effective running of the township park district.
Thank you to Roy Podojil, Sandy Siegler and Terry Ries for your dedication and your years of service. You are much appreciated by the community, as evidenced by the 2012 survey of Russell residents, where, on a 1 to 10 scale, we scored satisfaction with our parks at an extraordinary 8.4, a 29 percent increase in satisfaction over the 1994 survey.
So how did Grendell “fix” the park district? At the end of Terry Ries’ term of office, rather than reappointing Ries, as requested by Ries and the other commissioners, Grendell took it upon himself to appoint his political ally, Linda O’Brien, as a park commissioner.
Much ado was made by Grendell of the “fact” that O’Brien was the first woman on the Russell Park Commission. This is untrue. Many in Russell remember Bebe Ober’s fine service as a commissioner.
But Grendell has no regard for truth, history or public entities that function well without his interference. He has stated he will not appoint anyone to the park commission for longer than two or three terms.
Without institutional memory, without continuity, without the soundness of on organization made up of people whose respective strengths combine to make the whole greater than its parts, and without, by the way, any support staff, who all resigned following O’Brien’s appointment, Grendell has truly fixed what wasn’t broken — and now the citizens of Russell are really in a fix.
Grendell Agenda Marches On
John Oros, who was appointed executive director of Geauga Park District, without interviews of the other two dozen or so other applicants, has again demonstrated that he has no conservation ethic.
In 2014-15, illegal recreation equipment was installed at Bass Lake in violation of the EPA. A boat leaking fuel was allowed to remain on Bass Lake.
Illegal hunting was permitted on our Burton Wetlands State Nature Preserve. Recommendation from natural resources management for trapping nuisance animals was ignored and permits were given in vague locations for unnamed animals.
An outside group was given permission by Mr. Oros to have muskets and black powder in a children’s day camp — a violation of park rules and regulations, but for which Mr. Oros and others received a commendation from the Honorable Judge Timothy Grendell.
Mr. Oros announced at the January park board meeting that he was going to utilize a provision in the park rules and regulations to issue a special permit for trial snowmobiling in Observatory Park, our Dark Sky Park. Snowmobiling is prohibited by the rules and regulations, but he stated he did not need board approval.
I asked if a natural resources management environmental impact evaluation had been done. He responded that he had talked to the park biologist.
A public records request was submitted for the following: “The evaluation and/or opinion and/or environmental assessment of Natural Resource Management, or of any other expert, of the environmental or any other kind of impact, of allowing snowmobiling at Observatory Park.”
Mr. Oros replied he had no records for this request.
So, once again, the executive director has dismissed the need for good environmental stewardship of our parks.
Of course, the new board president asked for an impact statement after the snowmobiling trial, after any damage is done.
The Grendell agenda marches on. Surely we can do better than this for the future of our parks.
It’s Time for Change
I am shocked and appalled at the decision to allow snowmobiles in Observatory Park.
This park is designated Dark Sky Park and one of a kind in NE Ohio. Now, through the mismanagement of the park executive director, this park will allow snowmobiles on the trails. Meanwhile, these trails are closed to hikers.
A recent survey sent out to Geauga County residents this past year, by the Geauga Park District Board of Commissioners, with the assistance of TRIAD Research Group, was conducted to aid in the Geauga Park Board’s long-range planning.
TRIAD concluded the 1,611 returned surveys out of a possible 33,500+ households were a true representation of Geauga Park users. TRIAD stated the surveys clearly showed a concern for preserve, conserve and protect.
When asked to choose the three things the respondents thought were most important for the Geauga Parks to do, the four items rated as most important were: protect wildlife habitat (66 percent), protect areas of natural beauty (47 percent), protect our watershed and ground water quality (40 percent) and preserve open space (39 percent).
Providing recreational opportunities garnered only 22 percent.
Less than 1 percent wanted mountain bike trails, trapping, shooting, playgrounds, volleyball, bocce ball.
Even though TRIAD felt the surveys were a true representation of the taxpayers, Judge Grendell and his Park Board began the mantra that the results were not significant enough to consider.
That is, except for former Park Commissioner Jeffrey Orndorff. He stated he felt it was a compelling articulation of the direction taxpayers wished the park district to move, that their suggestions had a lot of validity and the park commissioners should try to implement them. As a result he was removed from the Park Board.
It is time for someone from the state to step in a review these actions and activities. It is time we, the people, speak up and tell the Park Board and Executive Director we do not approve of the direction they are pushing our park system.
It’s time to change leadership to those who will take into consideration the original aims of the park district and follow the advice of biologists and naturalists in implementing management changes in these parks.
What’s So Bad
Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Tim Grendell has taken plenty of criticism in recent months for his oversight of the Geauga Park District, and his appointment of park commissioners that seem come and go from the Board like birds at a birdfeeder.
But I have come to wonder if some of the criticism is unfair. For example, he is sometimes accused of “cronyism.”
Now, it is true that, shortly after being appointed Probate Judge, he used the power of his office to create a court constable position. Previously, no probate judge had his own constable. A Geauga County sheriff’s deputy has always provided security to the Court. Judge Grendell named his campaign manager, John Ralph, to that new constable position.
It is also true that after the firing of former Park District Director Tom Curtin, Judge Grendell used the power of his office to order a $16,000, no-bid contract to study Park District personnel “leadership,” to be completed by Linda O’Brien, a recently failed Tea Party candidate and political friend of the Judge.
I know there are other examples that his critics rattle off, but my point is this: Why do people have to call this “cronyism?”
Cronyism is such a pejorative term. As these two examples show, maybe the Judge is just a nice guy, using the power of his office and his court budget to take care of a few friends, people he likes and cares about?
What is so bad about that?