RJRD board tries to reduce number of park buildings

by Sue Serdinak

Nov. 28 RJRD meeting

The number of structures in the Richfield Heritage Preserve that should be saved continues to be discussed at Richfield Joint Recreation District strategic planning and board meetings.

“We have 39 buildings in the preserve,’’ board chair Anita Gantner said. “With an eye for fiscal responsibility, some must come down. We are building heavy. We need to be realistic in our operations budget.” 

Gantner said that she and board member/operations manager Jeff DeLuca and park director John Piepsny inspected the two cabins, five shelters, swimming pool and the Nature Hut that Kelly Coffman and the strategic planning commission had placed on the tier three list.

Coffman had recommended that structures on the tier three list be removed from the park.

Gantner said after viewing all of the structures, she recommended that two structures, Robinson Shelter and Far Away Pines Shelter, be moved to tier two. Tier two structures would be put on a list of structures that might be saved if an individual, business or organization signed up to “champion” the structure.

Nineteen other structures are on a list in one of three priority categories for saving. An application to become a champion of a structure is not yet available. 

The Friends of Richfield Heritage Preserve is an ongoing champion of the Kirby Mill and Oviatt House Inc. is a champion of the Oviatt House.

The Friends also have been doing stabilization work on several other structures, including the Kirby, North, Amity and Bounce houses.

Board member Maureen McGinty said some areas of the park have a cluster of shelters and recommended some of them be moved or sold.

“What is the number of manageable shelters that we can use for programming? I’d like to reduce our footprint and reduce the structures in our beautiful park,” she said.

Board member Mike Selig said he favored getting the champion process started and delaying razing structures. He asked DeLuca if any buildings had safety concerns.

Board member Mark Robeson agreed, saying, “Unless they are dangerous, I don’t see the need to not let that process play out.” 

DeLuca said there are no safety issues with any structure.

Board member Dave Wehner said he would like to establish a process to sell some of the shelters.

Board member Sandy Apidone asked if the board should allow a group to champion a building if the board has slated it for removal.

Several members of the Friends group spoke against removing buildings because they are part of the heritage of the park.

Lynn Richardson, secretary of Friends, said that the invasive species volunteers use the shelters when they are working in the park. “This is a heritage preserve, not a nature preserve,” she said.

Chris Naizer questioned why the flagpoles were removed from the park. “You are dismantling the heritage of the park,” she said. 

Naizer said Cleveland Metroparks holds fundraisers in their shelters. 

“I think the championing idea is a great idea. The Oviatt House is a great example,” said Paul Swan, president of the Richfield Historical Society.

Swan added that the society might agree to champion a building.

Another resident, Clare Paquelet, said she frequents the park and does not see the shelters used. “Simply because something is old, doesn’t make it historic,” she said.

The board voted to approve removing Robinson Shelter and Far Away Pines Shelter from the group of structures to be dismantled. The board took no further action regarding the champion list.

The Lodge

Piepsny recommended increasing the pay of Shari Green, the district’s event consultant. Piepsny said that according to Green’s contract, she is expected to work 12 hours per week, and she spends a lot more time than that.

According to her report, Green said 16 weddings were booked in the Lodge in 2022.

Green is currently paid $1,000 per month, plus 10% of the rental charges for the Lodge. Piepsny recommended that she be paid $1,500 per month plus 20% of the rental fees charged.

Gantner asked if the park can afford this increase, and Piepsny said it could.

After the meeting, Piepsny said the 2022 booking season was short because the air conditioning was not installed in the Lodge until mid-summer.  “We are already booking into 2024, which is very exciting news!” he said.

He added that showers, parties and special events have also been booked for the Lodge, and Green frequently gives many tours of the facility.

He provided data that showed a $49,350 net gain in the Lodge account through November, which includes booking deposits, less Green’s commission and the Square processing fee.

Also after the meeting, Wehner advised that the Lodge accounting is somewhat distorted for 2022 because the Lodge fund was created mid-year and a portion of the cost for utilities, snow plowing, insurance, legal expenses and payroll for other employees of the park have not yet been included in Lodge expenses.

No action was taken on the compensation increase.


Selig reported that the park was unsuccessful in getting a $25,000 Nature Works grant to replace a metal footbridge over the upper dam. He said the committee is studying how to write a more effective grant application.

He said there have been discussions with the Friends about creating an endowment fund and the group being in charge of all fundraising for the park.

Conflict of Interest

Wehner said he will suggest minor changes to the board’s conflict of interest policy and will present them at the next meeting. 

Oviatt House

Judy Bowman, chair of Oviatt House Inc., reported that the volunteer group, under the guidance of Ken Bowman, has worked more than 500 hours to renovate the house.

Volunteers replaced the roof and several rafters on the 1836 structure. They also removed walls that were not part of the original structure and stripped off the exterior siding to reveal the original siding, which they scraped and painted. Volunteers donated the paint and the house is now its original color.

Bowman received permission from the board to start phase 2 of the project. She said that private companies have offered to install electrical service and heating and cooling units at no charge.

Friends work

Corey Ringle reported that the Friends have completed the stabilization of the North House, including replacing floor joists and raising the damaged area of support beams.  They also replaced rotted wood in sills and rims.

The Friends volunteers also stabilized the roof on Garfield Hall and secured doors with plywood to prevent animals and moisture from entering the building. They also replaced the roof and sheathing with plywood and felt.

They have contributed 7,170 volunteer hours in 2022, including 792 hours cleaning latrines and emptying trash cans.

Other volunteers

General volunteer coordinator Susan Czaplicki reported that University of Akron Law School, Scout Troop 526, St. Albert the Great students, Burns & McDonnell staff, Revere High School National Honor Society and Key Club, North Royalton and Brecksville Broadview Heights Key Clubs and University of Akron Phi Delta Theta fraternity volunteered in the park in October.  

Czaplicki said about 222 people provided volunteer work in the month of October. ∞