The weekly column, “County Line,” by Dave Lange, appears in the Chagrin Valley Times and Geauga Times Courier. Our thanks to the Chagrin Valley Times for permission to republish it here.
Chagrin Valley Times
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
BY DAVE LANGE
It appears that the new three-member Russell Park Commission did do due diligence with its Sept. 19 decision to contribute $1.2 million toward the purchase of the 52-acre Modroo farmland on Hemlock Road, which appears to confirm that the old park commission did due diligence quite some time ago.
In more good news for parkland lovers, the three-member Geauga Park District Board of Trustees agreed to purchase the 198-acre Stapel property in Hambden Township for $1.1 million. Although board member Jackie Dottore said her fellow board members failed to do due diligence when they subsequently named the new park Stapel’s Meadow, that could be perceived as good news in and of itself.
Furthermore, the Geauga park trustees have approved a 50-year agreement with the village of Middlefield for an extension of the district’s Maple Highlands Trail. That could be considered good news for park lovers, except that it allows snowmobiles on the trail, which is anathema to perceptions of the district’s mission of “preserve, conserve and protect.” Yet there may be a silver lining on ice, as board member Richard Gertz opposed motorized uses of the trail. Perhaps more due diligence will come of that.
Even Geauga County Probate Judge Timothy J. Grendell, who controls the Russell and Geauga County park boards through the power of appointment, could be credited with doing some due diligence in August, when he attempted to prevent a foolish violation of Ohio election law.
The second round of due diligence regarding the Modroo farm was set in motion last January, when Mr. Grendell concluded that experience and exemplary service were due for replacement by inexperience and patronage on the Russell Park Commission. Following one replacement, undue disputation over the original diligence done by three commissioners with a combined 67 years of park experience resulted in resignations by the other two. With barely a year of combined park-administration experience, the new commission’s due-diligence do-over may be a done deal.
However, the community spirit engendered by the old park commission may have been undone by the friction caused by its replacement, and the creation of a new Russell park district controlled by Township Trustees, as opposed to a judge, could soon be a done deal. Duplication often is due to failure to do due diligence.
With the 2014 suspension of a park levy intended for land acquisition and park board appointments catering to the “Dark Side of Conservation” wing of Judge Grendell’s Republican Party, the Stapel’s Meadow deal must be a pleasant twist for even his most unpleasant detractors.
Given that namesake honors attached to the park district’s 289-acre Frohring Meadows in Bainbridge and 101-acre Walter C. Best Wildlife Preserve in Munson were bestowed on generous land donors, Mrs. Dottore raised a noteworthy $1.1 million question about the Stapel’s Meadow naming.
Actually, it’s noteworthy when anybody questions park commissioners’ actions, as unpleasant detractors are no longer entitled to speak.
Ditto for Mr. Gertz’s expressed concerns about snowmobiles mixing it up with Amish buggies and other peaceful users of the Maple Highlands Trail.
But Geauga Park District Executive Director John Oros, the chief advocate of snowmobile trails and chief censor of public participation in the public’s park business, may be above it all. Even after the big boss, Judge Grendell, duly pointed out the impropriety of politicking with a taxpayer-funded park district flier, due diligence was done for.