Lodge rentals increasing; smash and grab repeated

by Sue Serdinak

June 27 Richfield Joint Recreation District board meeting

With pandemic restrictions on meeting places decreasing, rentals of the Lodge in the Richfield Heritage Preserve are increasing, according to Shari Green, event coordinator.

She and Richfield Joint Recreation District Chairperson Anita Gantner met with the manager of Happy Days Lodge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to learn how that venue manages leads, reservations, billing and payments for events.

Green said Happy Days uses the software Tripleseat, which would cost the RJRD $375 per month. Tripleseat would be used in conjunction with Wedding Wire, a rental leads program that RJRD already uses. The park district is paying $750 per month for Wedding Wire.

The Tripleseat software would create a database and a calendar that would sync with the park district’s calendar. “Everything would be automated. … It would eliminate a lot of stress and we would continue to grow,” Green said.  

Board member Maureen McGinty asked if Green had explored other programs and asked what program Summit and Medina county metro parks use. “$375 is kind of steep per month,” she said.

Green said she has not investigated other software. “This one is very hospitality focused. … It makes us look very professional,” she said.

She added that Wedding Wire is projected to reduce its monthly fee to about $650, and she may discontinue using the software for leads in the future.

Board member Dave Wehner also questioned the cost, saying he pays $75 per month for a sales software package.

Gantner said gross revenue projections for the Lodge through the end of the year, based on actual bookings is $64,000. Lodge expenses are expected to be $24,000, not including additional software, she said.

“So, we’re still in a very good place,” she said.

Gantner added that the park district’s early business plan had projected only $22,000 in gross revenue in 2022. The projected gross revenue is $86,000 for 2023.

“If we get one booking, [the software] pays for six months,” Gantner added.

The board took no action on purchasing Tripleseat, and Green agreed to examine other hospitality software packages.

Green asked permission to allow a party of 225 people to set up a children’s inflatable jump set in the park as part of a wedding reservation at the Lodge.

Gantner said the law director would have to be consulted. Wehner said the parties renting the facility would need an Acord certificate of liability.

Smash and grab

Another incident of smash and grab occurred in the main parking lot. The car windows of two hikers were smashed and a purse stolen.

Board member Jeff DeLuca said cameras recorded the cars and briefly saw the thieves, but the car didn’t have a license plate. In addition, it had tinted windows so the driver could not be seen. He said police told him this is happening all over, and the thieves are likely traveling from state to state.

DeLuca said the thieves probably watched from their parked car when people hid items in their car.

Nature Works grant

Board member Mike Selig reported that the grant committee is trying to apply for a $25,000 Nature Works grant before the deadline of July 15.

He said the committee needed to identify the project to be funded and chose replacing the pedestrian bridge over the upper lake dam. He said that although the bridge is safe, it is unattractive and the steps are very difficult to maneuver. He added that people walking their dogs usually cannot cross the bridge.

He said the grant application requires an estimated cost of the project, and he is attempting to get that information.

Conservancy grant denied

Gantner reported that the Western Reserve Land Conservancy was unsuccessful in getting a Clean Ohio grant to purchase a 40-acre property on Wheatley Road, referred to as the Duffy property. If the conservancy had received the grant, the RJRD would have accepted ownership of the land, and it could never then be developed.

Second open house

Gantner reported that a June 12 open house was a huge success and suggestions received plus survey answers are being compiled. There will be a follow-up open house the evening of Sept. 13. The district’s strategic planner, Kelly Coffman, and the trail planner, Andrea Irland, will be invited.

Coffman is with Cleveland MetroPark and Irland is with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Park director

Gantner introduced Todd Alexander saying, “He is now on the short list as our newest park director.”

Horse access from Broadview

In late 2021, the board approved allowing horse access to the park through the main entrance off Broadview Road.

Gantner reported that the trail design project has stalled. She proposed the access could continue another year. The other board members voted to continue allowing equestrians to enter at that gate. Selig uses the access with his horse and abstained.

Capital improvements

DeLuca reported that concrete work on the newly repaired lower lake dam is showing some moisture. He said Gannett Fleming engineering firm will evaluate the problem and while that is happening, the water level of the lake will rise and fall.

DeLuca also said the climbing course was removed from the park after a tree fell on it. An outside firm took down the upper part of the course, and volunteers removed the remaining parts “saving a lot of money,” he said.

The Oviatt House group installed fencing around the 1836 building as they start to replace the roof.

Invasive species

DeLuca said a hiker reported seeing a timber rattlesnake. He said no photos were taken, and the identification was not confirmed. He said Lake Erie water snakes and milk snakes are common to the area and are often confused with a timber rattlesnake.


Librarian Diane Nagy conducted story hour for more than 50 children. Park administrative assistant Polly Wheeler said people have requested the park offer more children’s programming.

Two volunteers travel through the park every evening to make sure all visitors have left before dark.

Deluca said volunteers have removed pavilions in disrepair.

Volunteer coordinator Susan Szplicki reported several groups donated time to the park the past month, including working in the Lodge, painting latrines, splitting firewood and clearing vegetation. KeyBank employees cleaned the park office and pack out building.

Mars Electric painted the summer barn, a shelter, latrine and four picnic tables and removed about 2,000 feet of wire from fencing.

North East Ohio Orienteering Club cleared a fence line.

The Pruett family hosted a Spif’s Family Garden workday. 

Eagle Scouts built five Adirondack chairs and three wooden trash boxes.

The board thanked Dave Kalal and Chris Moore for working many hours in the park.

Friends of Richfield Heritage Preserve

Every Sunday the Friends provided a docent program at the Kirby Mill. They also provided docents for the park’s open house.

The Friends are taking an inventory of invasive plants in the park and will continue to remove the plants in high quality areas.

They re-installed restored windows, painted the ceiling and rebuilt exterior stairs at the Kirby House. They stabilized the stairs of the Amity house and patched a hole created by vandals at the North House and painted many walls in the house. 

Since January 2022, they tallied 416 hours of emptying the trash and cleaning latrines and the Lodge bathroom along with other tasks. ∞