The following article originally appeared in the Geauga County Maple Leaf. Our thanks to the Maple Leaf for permission to republish the article here.
Geauga Maple Leaf October 20, 2016
By Diane Ryder
When Middlefield Village Council approved last month an agreement with the Geauga Park District to provide for horses and buggy traffic on the extended Maple Highlands Trail, they did not realize the agreement would also allow motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles on the path.
At their Oct. 13 meeting, council voted to amend the agreement to exclude the vehicles.
Parkman Township resident John Augustine told council sharing the trail with motorized vehicles would defeat the purpose of enjoying the peace and quiet of the parks, and would be dangerous for pedestrians, equestrians and Amish buggies using the trail. “The Amish are not in favor of this and council, too (has expressed the same position),” Augustine said.
“None of us are,” Mayor Ben Garlich assured him. “I don’t want it. Some of those things can do 80 miles an hour. I don’t want my grandkids out there when they go by.”
Garlich said the village’s original intent for the trail was to give the Amish a way to drive their buggies into town without having to drive on busy state routes. “Today I read the agreement and I have egg on my face,” Garlich told Augustine, adding he had not seen provisions for motorized vehicles in the original proposed agreement, and was surprised to see them listed in the finalized one that council passed.
“This is a mistake on my part and I don’t want to throw council under the bus. We caught it after we sent it,” Garlich said. “I am embarrassed. This was not our intention from the start.”
The mayor said he spoke with park district Executive Director John Oros on Oct. 12, who told him he had been told council was “on board” with including snowmobiles. “We obviously weren’t,” he said. “We’re gonna correct it tonight.”
Augustine said he learned about the snowmobiles when he attended a park district board meeting in September and one member voted against the agreement. “You would have thought that they would have brought it up for discussion,” Augustine said. “Thank you for having an open discussion on this — (the public) can’t talk at the park meetings anymore.”
Council voted unanimously to declare an emergency and waive the required second and third readings of Resolution 16-21, amending the use agreement that had previously been approved under Resolution 16-18. The amendment effectively bans snowmobiles and motorized recreational vehicles on the trail.
The resolution passed unanimously without discussion, but after the meeting, Garlich said the misunderstanding had been a matter of miscommunication between the village and the park district.
“The district thought we wanted it,” Garlich said, adding somehow snowmobiles became listed in the finalized agreement without the village’s knowledge.
He said the park district has already given verbal agreement to the new amendment and Geauga County Probate Judge Timothy Grendell has also approved the change.