The article below was originally published on Chagrin Valley Today, the website of the Chagrin Valley Times and the Geauga Times Courier. Our thanks to the Chagrin Valley Times for permission to republish the article here.
Chagrin Valley Times
May 11, 2017
By KRISTA S. KANO
While park planners for the Geauga County Park District presented a plan to develop the Ellerin property in Bainbridge with an eye towards conservation, Commissioner Andrej Lah asked them to consider adding more recreational features, saying, “I think we’re behind the times.”
Park planner Dan McConnaughy presented the development plan for the Ellerin property, which was purchased by the park district in 2002 from Gerome and Rosalyn Ellerin for $1.2 million. The Bainbridge property is 129 acres that is abutted by Country Lane to the south and Franklin Street to the West. The current development plan is for $950,000 and construction would begin in 2018.
Mr. McConnaughy explained that the property consists of three primary features, mature forest, shrubs and wetlands. The plan calls for the development of existing trails that would connect to Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation trails. The plan would also develop an entrance drive, shelters, restrooms and parking. Enclosed shelters would feature tube heating, allowing them to be used year-round.
Mr. Lah, who was appointed to the position earlier this year, asked planners to consider looking at Penitentiary Glenn Reservation in Kirtland.
“What they’re doing over there with the kids, it’s pretty impressive. They have a lot of different types of activities. I think we should have a real serious look at what we can do to enhance the use of the park and allow families to use it. Young families are going to come if there is a small rock wall. They did a good job over there and I think we’re behind the times,” Mr. Lah noted.
Mr. Lah also asked that planners look into making the trails more strenuous by leading them down ravines.
“I’m ok with the Ellerin improvements, as long as you continue with what we discussed. You have to have a park that is attractive to all personalities and tastes,” Mr. Lah said.
Park Executive Director John Oros told Mr. Lah and Board President Jackie Dottore that planners would return in June with a draft of the appropriations budget and will begin working on a contract with a design engineering firm. The park board will be shown a budget in July. Mr. Oros explained that anytime there is a contract of $50,000, the board will be asked to make a motion. The third commissioner, Len Barker, was not present at the meeting.
Discussed briefly, the 2018 capital improvement projects also included plans for Eldon Russell Park, West Woods and Orchard Hills.
Eldon Russell Park, located in Troy Township, would see preventative maintenance and resurfacing. Additional parking would becreated at the West Woods in Russell, as well as a trail around the new parking, that would include a boardwalk near an existing pond. The new parking spaces would be accessed via an entrance on Music Street. Orchard Hills would see a meadow restoration.
“I’m very excited about what you are doing for 2018. But I’m also interested in seeing a list about 2019 and 2020 that are potentials that you guys are starting to look at. Where are we going in two or three years because that also affects conversations about levies and what we really want to improve,” Mrs. Dottore said.
The board went into executive session for about an hour to discuss complaints made against park personnel. Kathleen Webb, a Protect Geauga Parks trustee, said that the complaints were in reference to a letter the organization sent to Geauga County Probate Judge Timothy Grendell requesting the removal of current park commissioners. When commissioners returned from executive session, they did not discuss the matter further.
The letter begins, “We are writing to share our concerns about the Board of Commissioners of the Geauga Park District, and to ask that you, as the supervising authority, remove the current commissioners for misfeasance and malfeasance, and appoint new commissioners who have an understanding of finance, an appreciation of the history of the Geauga County Parks, a background in ecology and a commitment to conservation, and who will fulfill their fiduciary duties to the public they serve.”
The letter states that commissioners have violated their duties to manage accounts, of care, of compliance and of loyalty, and lists specific examples as to how those duties were violated.