The current Probate Court Judge and a few of his followers have consistently attempted to mis-characterize the positions taken by Protect Geauga Parks on issues related to management and control of Park property and programs. In this page, we will offer a response to the mythology being disseminated by the Judge.
Myth: Protect Geauga Parks opposes activities for children in the parks.
Response: This is categorically false. This myth has been mainly repeated by Judge Timothy Grendell himself. He has claimed in several publications that one of our members made this statement directly to him. He made this statement as early as June, 2014—months before Protect Geauga Parks existed. We have tried to identify the source of this anonymous quote and have not been able to verify that anyone actually said it. As a judge he should understand that even if someone did make such a statement, it is hardly evidence that an entire organization endorses the statement as a matter of policy. Alas, we are not dealing with the most intellectually skilled judge. Protect Geauga Parks strongly supports getting children outdoors to enjoy the beauty of nature and to learn how we humans fit within the natural order of things.
Myth: Protect Geauga Parks opposes playgrounds in the parks.
Response: Not necessarily. Our argument, which should really resonate with fiscal conservatives in our county, is that there are plenty of playgrounds already in place throughout our county. We question why we need to be spending our tax dollars building more within our natural parks? Also, do playgrounds align with the mission and the park district? If the aim of the Geauga Park District is to encourage more engagement with nature by children it would seem that placing playgrounds in the parks would serve to disengage them from nature. If, on the other hand, the playground area was thoughtfully designed to integrate lessons about nature and encourage exploration and discovery while not harming the natural surroundings, then Protect Geauga Parks would certainly support such an endeavor.
Myth: Protect Geauga Parks wants the parks to be used only by a few “elitists.”
Response: This is categorically false and once again perpetrated by the Probate Judge in several publications. Protect Geauga Parks encourages everyone, including both county residents and those who live outside of Geauga County to visit our parks. However, the Ohio Revised Code stipulates in clear language the objective of county parks systems in section 1545.09:
(A) The board of park commissioners shall adopt such bylaws and rules as the board considers advisable for the preservation of good order within and adjacent to parks and reservations of land, and for the protection and preservation of the parks, parkways, and other reservations of land under its jurisdiction and control and of property and natural life therein. (emphasis added)
It is clear that not all forms of recreation are compatible with this state directive. For example, the current administration has authorized the use of snowmobiles during the winter months in Observatory Park, a nationally recognized Dark Sky Park. Not only does this threaten this national recognition, this decision ignores a significant body of research from across the globe that shows that snowmobiles have a variety of harmful impacts on both wild flora and fauna. Moreover, the use of snowmobiles denied access to the trail at Observatory Park to all except those who were there to ride snowmobiles. This is but one example of how certain activities promoted by the Parks have denied access to all but a select few (there were a total of 39 snowmobile permits issued).
Myth: Protect Geauga Parks is against hunting.
Response: While within the large membership of Protect Geauga Parks there may be some who dislike the idea of hunting wildlife, as an organization we recognize that hunters are often leading proponents of land and water conservation and as such are an ally with respect to our shared interest in the preservation of our parks. Furthermore, we also recognize that at times hunting is prudent to manage populations out of balance due to the loss of natural predators. That said, PGP has objected to the methods used by the GPD to permit hunting in the parks.
First, the park has not publicly disclosed any data to show that there is scientific justification for hunting of target species even when asked to provide said data during public meetings. Nor, has the park established quota limits typical of managed hunts. Rather, hunters and trappers are given free reign to hunt on taxpayer owned lands which excludes all others from using the parks during the period set aside for hunting. Furthermore, we have called into question the fairness of the lottery used to distribute limited permits when both Director Oros and Judge Grendell won hunting and trapping access in the parks as well as other known acquaintances of the two. We object to this pandering to an elite few at the expense of the greater public interest.
Myth: 97% of the Geauga Parks are preserved in its natural state.
Response: The GPD administration has made this claim numerous times to justify use of lands for expanded recreational purposes. The reason why such a claim is false is based largely in the science of landscape ecology. The GPD claim is based solely on area calculation of man made surfaces such as building footprints and parking lots, which are shown to be about 3% of the total property surface area. However one would be exposing significant ignorance or denial if they were to claim that the harmful ecological impacts of these structures stops where a man-made surface ends. For example, these surfaces produce run-off that results in unnatural movements of surface water, which can have impacts at considerable distance from the man-made structures. It is also likely this run-off carries with it various pollutants.
There is, however, a well documented but lesser known ecological phenomenon known as the edge effect, which is even more significant. There is always a zone of ecological impact between two distinct habitats where a variety of consequences have been described by research. Numerous long-term studies show that man-made edges can negatively harm natural habitats for significant distances beyond the edges. For example, many studies have shown that bird nesting success declines sharply in natural habit for several thousands meters from the man-made edges, which can include open spaces, buildings, and even trails. These man-made edges attract natural nest predators like jays and raccoons, and even nest parasites, including the brood parasite known as the Brown-headed Cowbird. As such, nearly all the land area of our parks is unnaturally influences by development both within and outside the parks.
The edge effect is so well known in the field of ecology that there is no doubt that at least some officials in the GPD are aware of it and as such knowingly understand how misleading the 97% natural state claim really is. We find this troubling as it suggests a deliberate effort to ignore established science and to mislead the public rather than to educate.
Myth: “It is a fact worth repeating: Our parks are better than ever.”
Response: This statement was first made by Judge Grendell in a Voices of Nature Newsletter and has since been used repeatedly by both the Judge and the GPD in various advertisements. First, it is disturbing that a siting judge seems to be confused between what is fact and what is opinion. While, you might agree with Grendell that the parks are “better than ever,” any reasonable person should realize that this is a statement of opinion just as if one were to claim that the BEATLES were the greatest rock band of all time. Yet the judge and GPD have repeated this “fact” many times.
This may seem like a minor point, but it exposes a greater concern that Protect Geauga Parks has with respect to the current leadership in the GPD. Clearly, the current leadership views the replacement of naturally growing open space into unnecessary ball fields or playgrounds and the allowance of loud motorized snowmobiles as improving the parks. Someone who actually values natural landscapes and understands the ecological services that natural spaces provide would most certainly question such conversions or activities as improvements. Recall, from above that according to the Ohio Revised Code the legal charge of the GPD is to preserve and protect natural habitat and as such these “improvements” seem quite contradictory to that goal.