The following story originally appeared in the Chagrin Valley Times. Our thanks to the Times for permission to republish the article here.
Chagrin Valley Times
July 13, 2017
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN
RUSSELL – New zoning is in place for the 53.28 acres of Modroo Farm Preserve. Township Trustees made it official July 5.
Russell Zoning Inspector Shane Wrench said the 53.28 acres was zoned residential and township trustees approved rezoning it to passive park district.
There are several areas in the township zoned for passive parks, including the Geauga Park District’s West Woods.
The Russell Park District purchased the property in 2016. With the zoning change, planning for its use can begin.
Russell Trustee Justin Madden confirmed that the Modroo land is now zoned for a passive park.
One of the original proposals made when the land deal was being worked out between the Western Reserve Land Company and the park district was to designate Modroo as an active-passive park.
The question is how it can be both passive and active, Mr. Madden said. “What they attempted can’t happen.” He added, “It’s simply illogical.”
He added that current park board commissioners Greg Studen and Georg Abakumov would support the zoning approved by township trustees.
Neighbors don’t want park trails against the property line, Mr. Madden said, and a passive park would limit trails, he said.
There are currently several hundred acres of passive parkland in the township with the exception of the Bob Hall Field, which is used for sports, Mr. Madden noted.
The purchase of the 53 acres of the Modroo farmland by the Russell Park District was finalized in December of 2016 for $1.2 million. The Western Reserve Land Conservancy contributed $350,000.
The land conservancy has proposed ideas as well for preserving the Modroo farmhouse and barn adjacent to the 53 acres. The farmhouse is for sale. Possibilities for the future use of the house and barn have been discussed and proposals include a farm market, a bed-and-breakfast facility, gardens, vineyards and a winery.
Jeff Hyde, vice president and president elect of the Foundation for Geauga Parks, said when the Western Reserve Land Conservancy was undertaking the final purchase agreement on the 53 acres of farmland for a park, the foundation helped with fundraising. “We gave a small donation of $5,000,” he said.
One of the areas the foundation “has a heart for” is helping with wildlife habitat restoration. The foundation has discussed raising money for a wildlife corridor in the native grasses. There is an opportunity at the Modroo farmland to connect and to rehabilitate it so there is a corridor to connect to adjacent wildlife areas, Mr. Hyde said.
Park commissioner Mr. Studen said the future of Modroo is in the planning stages. “We want a lot of public input, and discussion of different options,” Mr. Studen said.
Neighbors want their opinions and ideas taken into account, he noted. They don’t want active use. It is a passive park and will be maintained for its ecological values. There will be ample opportunity for people to express their views, Mr. Studen said.
Trees will be planted in some areas and native vegetation will be restored, and there will be some form of public access, Mr. Studen said. It won’t be a large area, with probably enough space for about five cars, he said. It can be similar to the Russell Uplands, he said.
It is important to allow public access as long as it is kept natural. Walking trails would allow people to enjoy the outdoors with minimal impact on the environment, Mr. Studen said.
Before decisions are made, they will wait for a third board member to be appointed to the vacant seat on the park board.
The land conservancy and the Russell Park District will be holding a community event to celebrate the preservation of the Modroo farmland on July 27.
A path will be mowed on the acreage so people who attend the event can walk the parkland. It will provide a good part of the public input process to determine how the acreage will be used, Mr. Studen said.