State officials recognize Richfield’s tree program

by Sue Serdinak

To recognize Richfield’s 27th year as part of national Tree City USA, a celebration was held on the grounds of Richfield Town Hall.  About 250 representatives from Northeast Ohio attended with breakfast and lunch catered by Olesia’s Taverne of Richfield.

Councilperson Ralph Waszak was mayor when Richfield Village joined the Tree City program. In 1993 he enlisted the help of then-Councilperson Bob Hooper to organize the first tree planting along West Streetsboro, Broadview and Brecksville roads. He applied for a grant and with community volunteers, he planted about 50 trees around the same time sewer and water lines were being installed.

“I was always impressed by the maple trees that obviously had been intentionally planted on Humphrey and Brush roads,” Hooper said, hoping to emulate that stand of trees.

Hooper said they considered planting the same species for a uniform look along the roadways but were advised to plant three different species. That was fortuitous because the ash trees that were planted on the property where Richfield School stood died of the ash borer.

The village continues to replace dead trees so that a lovely canopy now greets travelers and residents.

Hooper and Waszak also talked about the Richfield Nonsuch apple tree that he, Waszak and Pat Norris, saved from extinction.

Waszak later told about the concerted effort required to save the former Coliseum property from being developed as a shopping mall. That property is now a meadow in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Christopher Davis, an ecologist with the national park, also talked about the Coliseum property. He described other examples of habitat restoration that the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has managed.  

Davis said because of hazardous waste, the Cuyahoga River had zero oxygen about 50 years ago. Now fish live in the waterway, and the park system has reintroduced small mussels.

He explained that meadows need to be reforested to complete the restoration process.

The village landscape planner, Rob Morgan, spoke about the community’s commitment to landscape design. Joe Leslie, director of real estate for West Creek Conservancy, was associated with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy when the nonprofit purchased the Crowell Hilaka property before selling it to the Richfield Joint Recreation District. Today he helps communities structure conservation projects.

Richfield’s Ellen Daniels spoke about the Monarch waystation at Eastwood Preserve.  She has raised and released monarch butterflies since 1994 and has held summer camps for children to help them enjoy the miracle of raising monarchs.

Story Walk is a combination of fitness and literacy, said Jennifer Stencel, librarian at Richfield branch library. In 2012, when the Carter Pedigo Trail was under construction near the library, children’s librarian Diane Nagy proposed the Story Walk Trail. Richfield Recreation Director Ruth Jocek applied for a Nature Works grant. Service employee Randy Shero designed and constructed the 16 story boards for the trail. In 2014, the Story Walk Trail received the Greater Cleveland Trails & Greenway Best Trail Award.

Robert Najjar, president of the Summit County Beekeepers Association, talked about the life cycle of honey bees. He described how the queen bee is fertilized and brings the eggs back to the colony. When a colony loses its queen, the female bees feed another female bee royal jelly to nourish the bee to be the queen.

“We’re losing honey bee colonies at an alarming rate,” he said.

Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro sent a proclamation to the ceremony, recognizing the village for being a Tree City. In Northeast Ohio, 69 communities are classified as Tree Cities.

Mayor Michael Wheeler shared master of ceremonies duties with former Mayor Bobbie Beshara, who had planned to be the host in 2020 until the pandemic struck.  Wheeler thanked Laura Toth, who organized the event continuing with a plan laid out by Debbie Bluso Rogers in 2020. He also thanked Dr. Gary Domanick and Waszak for their help. ∞