RJRD Board, officials hold final discussions for strategic planning initiative at RHP

by Dan Holland

Nov. 17 Richfield Joint Recreation District work session

Richfield Joint Recreation District board members and officials held a final work session in Richfield Village Council Chambers to discuss the Strategic Planning Initiative regarding Richfield Heritage Preserve. Discussions, which began in April, have included a number of meetings, a community workshop and an online survey to determine a path forward for the park with input from RJRD board members, the park director, representatives of Cleveland Metroparks, the National Park Service, park volunteer groups and the public.

Kelly Coffman, planner for Cleveland Metroparks, began the session by stating the mission of the RJRD: to safeguard, support and maintain the natural properties of Richfield while encouraging recreational and educational opportunities in the community. Her assistance in the planning process was part of a “services-in-kind” agreement made last year with Richfield Township in exchange for the gifting of Rising Valley Park to the Metroparks.

Coffman gave four priorities that she recommended group consider: high-quality park amenities for park users, sustainable operations, engaging residents, and overall resource stewardship and education.

Budget considerations

A 10-year, .5-mill operating levy, which will expire at the end of 2023, yields approximately $186,000 annually. A baseline commitment for an annual budget of approximately $300,000 will be needed to cover ongoing operations, according to figures in Coffman’s slide presentation.

A $7.1 million bond issue, approved by voters in November 2014, paid for the cost of acquiring the 336-acre former Girl Scout camp and also provided funding for completion of major capital improvement and repair projects within the park, including rehabilitation work on the upper and lower lake dams. At present, approximately $700,000 remains from those funds.

Park Director John Piepsny mentioned the possibility of pursuing state funding grants. Other sources of park revenue include rental fees at The Lodge at RHP and summer camp programs, he added.

Building structures

As part of the planning process, 29 of the park’s 38 building structures were grouped into building commitment categories with either a top, mid, or low designation. Nine of the structures – mainly open shelters – were listed in the low category being slated for demolition/removal. Groups or individuals will be able to “champion” a structure, or take responsibility for it’s repair and maintenance costs. The application to be a champion had not been prepared at the time of this meeting.

“Because we couldn’t maintain all of our structures and don’t have the funding for that, we talked about having champion managers,” explained Piepsny. “The board would have to decide on a few things; is it a use the board would want to see in the park, and is it a use that the public would like to see? The board would have to look at [each application] to see if it fulfills our mission statement and purpose.”

A master trails plan is also part of the process, which among other considerations, would improve connections to Rising Valley Park and provide more connector trails throughout RHP, according to Piepsny.

“Hopefully, we can come to some conclusions about what we’ve been working on,” said Coffman. “We talked about the organization of the park and how it represents the residents of Richfield. We’re nearing the end [of the process], and our hope is that the plan will be adopted by the board by the end of the year, which will set up the RJRD in position for a potential levy in 2023.” ∞