Board moves toward acquiring Duffy property off Wheatley Road

by Sue Serdinak

February 21 Richfield Joint Recreation District board meeting

The RJRD board approved a resolution to enter into an agreement with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to acquire the Headwaters Forest Preserve land, better known as the Duffy property, on Wheatley Road. The resolution enables the conservancy to apply for Clean Ohio funding through the Ohio Public Works Commission to purchase the property.

Located southeast of the juncture of I-77 northbound and Wheatley Road, the privately-owned, 40-acre property with a deep ravine, has a home and gas well on the site. The well generates about $600 annually in royalties. The estimated cost to raze the house is $10,000.

Robin Christensen, conservation project manager of The Western Reserve Land Conservancy, said the conservancy is not eligible to apply for a Clean Ohio grant. The application would list the RJRD as the grant recipient. She said that if the recreation district does not receive the grant, the property will not change ownership.

Christensen said that Clean Ohio funds cannot be used for demolition, so the conservancy would try to raise funds from private donors.

RJRD Chairperson Anita Gantner said the recreation district would have no annual expenses from owning the property.

“You would not be committing any cash to the project,’’ Christensen said. ‘’There are ways to protect yourself.’’

Upon questioning by former RJRD board member Pat Norris, Christensen said that neither the Cuyahoga Valley National Park nor the Summit Metroparks wanted the property.

Lodge rental

Shari Green, RJRD event planner, reported that Ohio Hardwood Furniture used the Lodge as a furniture display room.

Gantner later told the Richfield Times that Ohio Hardwood owner Pascal King-Smith paid $2,500 to use the space for nine days in February and $3,500 from March 1-April 1. King-Smith said he might use the space through April, which would cost an additional $3,500.

The advertised rates to rent the lodge are $500 per day, Monday through Thursday, $2,000 for Friday and Sunday and $3,000 for Saturday. Gantner said she got approval from legal counsel to rent to Ohio Hardwood but did not ask for board approval. 

“I’m confident that no one on the board would have opposed it,’’ she said. “We got people in to see the park, and no rentals were scheduled for this period. We’re doing our best to be fiscally responsible,” adding, “This was an exceptional opportunity since it wasn’t being used for other purposes.”

Friends of Richfield Heritage Preserve had scheduled some events for March, but they do not pay to use the Lodge. FRHP President Cory Ringle told the Richfield Times, “We had two events displaced, but to be fair, we really wanted to be accommodating to Ohio Hardwood Furniture to generate the excitement to rent the Lodge.”

Green said she recently scheduled a wedding and a graduation at the Lodge for this year. She also paid $2,200 to the Knot wedding site to get up to 100 leads for people looking for a wedding venue. 

Park Director David Green (not related to Shari Green) said the Lodge should have its own website, so potential clients could easily locate it on online

The board approved a resolution to renew Shari Green’s contract as the Lodge event coordinator through Dec. 31.

Administrative coordinator

Gantner introduced Polly Wheeler as the new part-time administrative assistant to the board. Gantner said that David Green appointed her. She will work about 12 hours per week.

Air conditioning

Board member Jeff DeLuca reported that after receiving an estimate of $144,000 to install four heating and four air conditioning units in the Lodge, the capital improvements committee decided to downsize the project and request new bids.

DeLuca said bathrooms and a kitchen would not be included in the bidding. 

Committee reports

Board member David Wehner, chair of the governance committee, reported that he is reviewing policies and procedures and comparing them to the Ohio Revised Code to be sure the board complies with the law.

He advised that the privately owned-cell tower on park property has no tenants. The owner of the tower has been paying $1,200 monthly to keep the tower in its location but is not generating any income. The park district does not receive a portion of any rental fees.

The board approved reducing the monthly lease for the tower to $600.

Board member Mark Robeson said the marketing committee wants to highlight park accomplishments, showcasing the dam work that is nearing completion. He said groups seem to do better at working together, and he wants to show that everyone is “walking in lockstep.”  

He added that the volunteer work presents a very positive image.

DeLuca reported that a tree fell onto the main roadway and also an interior road.

Board member Mike Selig, chair of the fundraising committee, said the committee concluded that individual philanthropy brings in the most dollars, but the committee also will try to have data ready to use for grant applications.

Selig said the committee wants to apply for grants for connector trails and bridges, citing the Buckeye Trail, which runs along Broadview Road but might be more useful inside the park.  Board member Maureen McGinty said that trails connecting the park with Richfield Woods be considered.

According to Selig, the committee suggested it might be beneficial that donations be given to the Friends of Richfield Heritage Preserve because it is a 501-C-3 organization rather than a government entity. 


Volunteer coordinator Susan Czaplicki reported that six Eagle Scout projects are in progress in the park. She said several volunteers cleaned buildings, stocked firewood and replaced a kitchen faucet. DeLuca cut up two large fallen trees and snowplowed the parking lots and main road.

Ringle reported for the Friends of Richfield Heritage Preserve that work on the Kirby Mill has stalled because of weather. However, the water wheel will be re-installed this spring.

McGinty said she had requested a full financial report from the Friends group. “I read that you raised $140,000 for the mill,’’ she said. “Is that where we are at today?”

Friends Treasurer Lynn Richardson said the group raised about $140,000 to restore the mill and has spent all of it. They will continue to raise funds for additional work, which includes stabilization of the wheel, repair of the swinging bridge and stairs, and prepping a roadway to connect the mill to the main path.

Privacy concern

Kingsbury Trail residents Phil and Jackie Klonowski told the board that trail walkers encroach on their privacy because a trail is very near their property line.  Phil Klonowski said when the Girl Scouts owned the property he cleared the woods to see the creek at the back of his property. He said hikers now can see into their house.

“We can’t put the trees back,” he said. “They can see into our yard. I have a problem with the dogs that are running free in the park. I want to propose that a trail be made further to the south that could connect to the trail. This would create a buffer zone.”

DeLuca said the boundary fence in that area has been damaged and repaired several times.

Gantner said the park board wants to be a good neighbor and will keep this in mind when the rivers, trails, and conservation group assesses the trails in the park. “The community will be engaged later regarding trails and programming,” she said.