ODNR Foresters Recommend Clear-Cutting Claridon Park

The following article originally appeared in the Geauga County Maple Leaf. Our thanks to the Maple Leaf for permission to republish the article here.


The solution to the tree massacre on 40 acres of Claridon Township Park on Old State Road is simple and painful: kill the survivors.

The solution to the tree massacre on 40 acres of Claridon Township Park on Old State Road is simple and painful: kill the survivors.

That is the only way the park at 12080 Old State Road can be properly salvaged for future generations, Claridon Township Trustee Jonathan Tiber said at the Jan. 22 meeting.

Tiber, serving his first month as trustee, said he met with Ohio Department of Natural Resources Foresters Luke Walters and John Kehn to evaluate the remnants of the previously wooded township park.

“They said the only way to truly heal the land after being pillaged like that is to clear-cut anything over two inches,” he said, speaking of the diameter of a sapling. “It’s tough to hear.”

Once that is done, it will take 12 to 15 years for the forest to grow up and nurture much wildlife again, Tiber said.

The trees from the 61-acre park had been harvested twice in the past without undue damage, so the board of trustees sitting in 2016 signed a contract with Mountain Run Forestry in Southington to cut trees measuring 16 inches.

What they didn’t know was that measurement can be taken at ground level, where the tree is much larger than at knee height, Trustee Roger Miller said last Monday.

“(Mountain Run Foresty) took advantage of us. He took us for a ride,” Miller said.

The township received $33,000 for the trees that were harvested, but the park is a disaster zone of leftover treetops, sawdust and slabs from where the lumber was milled.

Clear-cutting the area will cost considerably more than the harvesting yielded. Estimates from contractors recommended by the state forestry department range from $35,000 for cutting the remaining trees without clean-up to $100,000 for cutting, cleaning up and spreading what is chipped on the trails, Tiber said.

He suggested seeking out local assistance.

“We need to form a group of volunteers who are interested in helping out because they care about the park. We can fix the park the right way,” Tiber said.

If the property is left to just grow up as it is, the foresters said the wrong kinds of trees and underbrush will grow. For instance, there is a stand of the invasive species buckthorn on the property that needs to be cleared out or it will take over, he said.

Mountain Run Forestry had given the trustees a $3,000 check to hold in case the township was not satisfied with the company’s work, but a stop was put on the check, said township Fiscal Officer Kristin Sinatra.

Miller, who was a trustee when the contract was signed, said he regretted the board didn’t research the deal better.

“I’m sure Claridon Township is going to become the poster child for how not to do this,” he said.

A forester will attend the Feb. 5 trustees meeting to answer questions about the advantages of clear-cutting the acreage before trustees make any decisions, Tiber said.

In other action, trustees voted unanimously against a land swap proposed by Red Tulip Project initiators Dennis and Dianne Kellogg.

The plan has been to renovate a house the township acquired from the Kelloggs some years ago into a safe living environment for women who are recovering from drug addiction. The old farmhouse on 3.76 acres just north of the township square and town hall had to be demolished after two basement walls collapsed last year and Red Tulip plans to build a recovery house there. Fundraising has been successful, but the project has been held up.

The Kelloggs submitted a letter to trustees asking if they would swap the empty 3.2-acre lot the Kelloggs own for the township-owned acreage just to the north along state Route 528.

The contract between Red Tulip and the trustees leases the original lot to Red Tulip for 10 years with an option to renew and was signed before the house became uninhabitable.

Dianne Kellogg said the advantage to the township would be less liability and give the township better access to its maintenance garage. Red Tulip would rather own the property since they have to build a new residence, which is going to be more expensive than rehabbing the old farmhouse.

Tiber said the swap would not be in the township’s best interests because it would be half an acre less, an empty lot with a lower market value.

“A land swap would move us not just back to where we were, but back to square zero,” he said. “How can the trustees justify a land swap to the voters?”

Township resident Terry Zion said the original contract was for a house that was intact and just needed to be rehabbed.

“Then the foundation caved in. Now Red Tulip will have to spend money and, in 10 years, turn (the house) over to the trustees,” he said. “Now we have to start from the foundation up.”

Tiber said he sympathizes with Red Tulip’s plight, but the trustees never said the building was ready to inhabit and if Red Tulip can’t afford to continue, the two parties should talk about getting out of the lease.

The trustees voted to decline the land swap.

PGP Editor’s Note:

The article above illustrates the entirely predictable outcome of political decision making based on the desire for a monetary outcome alone, with no thought given to the environmental consequences and no effort to insure the preservation and protection of a valuable public asset. Why is it so difficult to ask questions about the scientific basis for such decisions? The tax payers of Claridon Township are now faced with a huge cost of cleanup on a project that had no logical basis in the first place. And what will be the eventual impact on water and soil quality in the area around this park?

We in Geauga County have easy access to the expert knowledge of institutions such as the Soil and Water Conservation District, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Geauga Park District and others who could have advised the Claridon Township trustees. But they apparently only sought the advice of the logging company, a contractor whose ethical standards included stopping payment on their bond check.

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