Richfield Heritage Preserve may open up limited number of campsites

by Dan Holland

Sept. 26 Richfield Joint Recreation District work session and board meeting

Residents may soon see a limited number of campsites available at Richfield Heritage Preserve.

“I talked with the State of Ohio Health Department, and we can do camping by permit, but we can’t do five or more campsites, as the rules change dramatically at that number,” Park Director John Piepsny told the board. “High Lea [shelter] would be one site. I was thinking that starting with this fall, we could make two campsites available to residents and see how it goes and come back next spring and see where we’re at.”

Piepsny said up to four campsites could be delineated at High Lea Shelter or at another location yet to be determined. Camping could be a source of revenue for the park, he added.

Piepsny also discussed a list he recently compiled of 10 potential capital improvement projects for which he would like to see fundraising efforts go toward. Improving the park trails, which he said pose many tripping hazards, was one item he would like to see addressed.

“That would include trails, bridges and different things along the trails,” said Piepsny. He added the work could be driven by the strategic plan that is being put in place and the master plan of several years ago.

Piepsny added that it would cost less than $10,000 to open up the Chagrin or Gemini cabins to accommodate classes or hold summer camp programs.

He also said he would like to see lighting installed in the main parking lot near the Lodge. He noted that the owner of Richfield Brewery recently donated lights.

Improvements at the Lodge could include a new roof and windows, landscaping and asphalt paving between the Lodge and adjacent parking lots.

Other potential projects could include a new maintenance garage, website and software, boathouse and boat launch areas and trail and park entrance signs.

Piepsny stressed the importance of volunteer groups working together with the RJRD to accomplish many of the projects.

Board member Dave Wehner discussed language revisions to RHP park policies involving fishing, pets in picnic areas and special permits in the park.

Committee reports

Wehner, who is chair of the governance committee, reported that full replacement insurance coverage on the restored waterwheel at Kirby Mill was increased to $100,000. Kirby Mill is now insured for up to $200,000, and Oviatt House is insured for up to $100,000.

Jeff DeLuca, chair of the operations and capital improvements committee, discussed installing a mat/cloth covering atop the metal grate stairs and walkway of the Upper Lake dam bridge to aid pedestrians walking with pets or those with a fear of heights.

Earlier this year, the grant committee applied for a grant to replace the metal bridge, but have not been notified if the grant was approved.

DeLuca said the committee also discussed upcoming Eagle Scout projects in the park, trail improvements and perimeter fencing issues.

Mike Selig, chair of the fundraising/grant writing committee, said the group discussed creating an endowment fund through the Akron Community Foundation. The group also discussed the steps required to obtain a land and conservation fund grant for a connector trail from Broadview Road to the main area of the park.

The committee also decided that a plaque listing donors for the Kirby Mill should have space for up to 100 names. The possible location for the plaque would be on the side of the mill or in the nearby parking lot.

Mark Robeson, chair of the marketing and communications committee, had an excused absence from the meeting.

Administration reports

Administrative Coordinator Polly Wheeler reported that a park registry of specific supplies to aid volunteers and staff in park maintenance is accessible through a link on the RHP website. She also represented RJRD at the Richfield Fall Fest, Oviatt Open House and participated as a facilitator in the Sept. 13 strategic planning forum held at the Lodge.

According to the Lodge board meeting report, 13 tours were given to potential clients at the Lodge in September. The Lodge open house on Aug. 23 hosted approximately 100 people and Lodge rentals have netted more than $125,000 so far in 2022.

Treasurer’s Report

In the treasurer’s report, Wehner reported a cash balance at the beginning of the month of $652,000 with a remaining balance of $586,000 at month’s end. The general fund and lodge fund together show a $41,000 deficit for the year.


Volunteer coordinator Susan Czaplicki reported that University of Akron students removed chain link fence fabric behind the old camp office, and Boy Scout Troop 810 cut back overhanging vegetation along the entrance road.

Volunteers worked with seasonal employee Chris Moore to remove sumac growing along the Upper Lake Dam, trimmed and cleaned up the boathouse trail, weeded the pollinator garden near the Oviatt gate, pulled weeds and set up tables and chairs for a wedding.

RJRD volunteers helped set up for the Oviatt House fundraiser, cleaned and organized the old camp office, cleaned out the pack-out building and installed a light in the parking lot, painted an interior accent wall at the Lodge and installed a thank you sign near the Oviatt kiosk.

Corey Ringle reported for the Friends group that the reconstructed waterwheel at Kirby Mill would be operating only on weekends. She said funding is still needed to rebuild the wooden trough water outlet, the wooden deck around the waterwheel, exterior stairs, the swinging bridge and other components of the mill.

The Friends are working to stabilize the floor at North House. They replaced floor joists under the kitchen and powder room.

They have volunteered a total of 5,550 hours in 2022 including 664 hours cleaning latrines and emptying trash. ∞