Remediation underway at former Brandywine Golf Course, reuse plan imminent

by Judy Stringer

Reuse plans for the 15 acres of the former Brandywine Golf Course that sits on the Cuyahoga River could be released by the end of the year.

“There’s a lot of moving parts,” said Stacey Rusher, park projects director for the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, “but hopefully by the end of this year, we’ll have a pretty good understanding of what we’d like to do with that property.”

The conservancy raised $6 million to purchase the entire 213-acre Brandywine course in 2021, with plans to sell the bulk of the property – 198 acres east of Akron-Peninsula Road – to the National Park Service. That sale closed late last year.

It retained the 15-acre parcel between Akron-Peninsula Road and the river. Rusher said the conservancy hopes to hire a firm to begin site design work there by the beginning of June. The design work, she said, will build on a 2022 market study by PROS Consulting out of Indianapolis.

“They took a look at what we were currently doing and trends across the country with outdoor recreation and put together a great report about what opportunities we have at the golf course property, but also within the park itself, based on demographics, age, race [and] level of activity to see where we could continue to build on those with this plan,” Rusher explained. “Now phase two is hiring a landscape architect to take some of those suggested amenities or attractions and place them on the property appropriately.”

While Rusher declined to name any specific amenities that may be part of the final plan, river access, she noted, will be a priority. The PROS report recommended a bridge connecting the property to the Towpath Trail on the other side of the river in addition to river vistas from pavilions and other spaces.

Rusher said public input was collected during the PROS research stage and will be part of the design phase as well. NPS spokesperson Pamela Barnes added that both entities “will be looking together at the property as a whole” when it comes to gathering information and listening to stakeholders about what they’d like to see at the former golf course.

“Anything that will happen on the park service portion of the land is yet to be determined given that we highly value the public’s input,” Barnes said. “We’re not making pre-emptive decisions.”

In the meantime, efforts to rid the property of mercury contamination began in May. Soil sampling had identified mercury in the soil of tee boxes, putting greens and some fairways. Rusher said the chemical was used in fungicides and herbicides up until the late 1990s and was found in larger concentrations on the older 18-hole course than the par-3 course, which was constructed in 1991.

Between 6-18 inches of soil will be removed in each area where the contamination was located. Those areas will then be regraded.

“Weather permitting, we think the whole process will take about four months,” Rusher said.

As of the end of June, 1,227 truckloads of contaminated soil have left the site for a total of approximately 25,000 tons, according to information on the conservancy’s website.

Barnes stressed that the golf course property, which includes a section of the Valley Trail, is closed and will remain so until further notice.  ∞

Photo: Remediation work will restore the former Brandywine Golf Course back to its natural state with future park uses to be determined. Photo by J. Stringer