RJRD board pushes for November levy; Friends make first Champion request

by Sue Serdinak

June 26 RJRD meeting

By a 5-0 vote, the Richfield Joint Recreation District board passed a resolution to put a .5-mill replacement operating levy on the November ballot.  Board members Mark Robeson and Steve McPeake were absent.

Board member Holly Price asked if the board should push for a five-year levy rather than 10, which might be more favorable to voters.

Board member Mike Lyons said that reducing the number of years might be misleading. “The 10-year commitment would bring some comfort to the voters that we don’t intend to replace it in five years,” he said.

Board Chair Anita Gantner added that it would be best to avoid appearing to ask for new taxes frequently.

Board member Dave Wehner said the replacement levy would generate about $30,000 more per year than the current .5-mill levy because of the increase in property values. 

Volunteer agreements

With the passage of the strategic plan for the park district, the board is preparing to finalize its memorandum of understanding with the Friends of Richfield Heritage Preserve.

Board member Mike Selig proposed changes to the agreement that the park and the volunteers are working under.

He suggested that the agreement should contain a clause that states funds raised and not used on a building championed by the Friends should go into the park’s general fund. The Friends have told the board they have legal and operating expenses that go beyond the cost of repairing structures.

Price added that the agreement should be worded so the board is not asserting control over the organization.

Wehner said the agreement should state that if the Friends use photos of the park or other intellectual property in promoting their events, the proceeds should go to the park rather than the Friends.

Gantner said the board will continue to work on the wording of the MOU, and members will work with the  Friends until they have an agreement. Even without a signed MOU, the board voted to ask Gantner to write a letter saying the board enthusiastically supports the Friends restoration of the Kirby Mill, as the group is in its last fund-raising push to complete the mill and the mill house.

Champion application

Lynn Richardson, treasurer of Friends, explained to the board how Friends wants to continue working in the park. She said Friends submitted two letters of intent, as required by the strategic plan, for them to be the champion of the Kirby House and the three Neal houses.

She said the Kirby mill and water wheel could be sources for engineering programming for children. She said they want to use the nearby Kirby House to host school groups, and that in 2014 Friends promised to help repair park structures if the park district handled the infrastructure. 

“They would be turn-key projects,” she said, and after the restoration is complete, the structures would be turned over to the park district.

“The other piece is that we would be open to developing programs,’’ she said. “We are going to have to apply for grants and hire people [to do those things].”

Richardson said Friends filled out an application to be Champion of the buildings, using the form in the strategic plan. However, the online application had no place for signatures. Wehner said the board could not act on the letter of intent without signatures.

Lyons said the group’s proposal suggests they lease the buildings. He said the board had determined no structures would be leased.

“I wouldn’t want to reject the letter of intent because the form wasn’t signed,” he added.

The board took no action on the application.

Oviatt House

Oviatt House LLC was awarded a $50,000 Ohio State Capital Grant in 2022. In order to receive the funds, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission required that the board sign a non-disturbance and estoppel agreement, which acknowledges the board has a lease and a restoration agreement with the organization. Lyons said he recommended the board sign it. He said the agreement states the park board would not be responsible for the work done on the structure.

After the meeting, Judy Bowman, president of Oviatt House, said there is one more step to take to receive the money. Meanwhile, work on the 1836 home is in its final stages.

The group has formed a committee to plan and create a museum in the building.

Photo: Boy Scout Adam Lahner built a bee motel in the Richfield Heritage Preserve. The structure was designed for solitary bees that do not live in colonies. The hotel should attract a range of pollinators. The females lay their eggs in hollow stems or pieces of wood in the structure. Photo submitted.


Selig reported that the fundraising committee is exploring revenue sources, including state capital funding. The park received $140,000 in capital funding in 2021 to help defray the cost of dam repairs.

The board also might apply for a grant from the Clean Ohio Trail Fund to connect the park to Richfield Woods and the metro parks.

A second application has been filed for a Nature Works grant to replace the footbridge over the upper dam.

Horseman’s group

Molly Eastwood, a member of the Summit County Chapter of Ohio Horesman’s Council, reported that the group recently held a fundraiser to repair the roof of Summer Barn. She said  $5,000 was raised to repair the leaking roof.

She told the board the new horse trail is wonderful, but it never crosses a stream where the horses can drink water. She suggested the trail could be modified slightly to cross a creek.  


Park Director John Piepsny presented photos of work volunteers did in the park over the last quarter, in addition to work the Friends have been doing on Amity House and Oviatt House Inc. has been doing on the Oviatt building. He cited librarian Diane Nagy, Dave Kalal, Revere and Hudson high School students, Ernst & Young and the Buckeye Trail group for their efforts.

He said broken asphalt was removed and gravel added to two trails.

Volunteer coordinator Susan Czaplicki reported that Ohio Operating Engineers have been widening the ramp to Mable Smith Shelter to make it handicap accessible.

Members of Ignition, the National Interstate Insurance’s development program, applied sealant to Adirondack chairs, painted picnic tables, scraped loose paint from the Lodge, and relocated picnic tables. 

Cub Scout Pack 3387 has undertaken the service project of collecting sticks and garbage around the park office.

Other volunteers prepped Chagrin cabin for summer camp, and spread gravel on the road to the boathouse.

Corey Ringle said that Friends installed drywall and painted and wallpapered rooms at Amity House.

She reported that the water line had been wrongly back-filled with gravel, creating a ditch that funneled water into the Amity House.  Friends refilled the ditch with clay and reinforced the basement window wells.  

The group has invested over 1,600 volunteer hours in Amity House.


Kalal recently resigned from volunteering at the park, following a police report that was filed against him by another volunteer and after property was damaged.

At the meeting, he made an impassioned speech saying, “I was a premier park volunteer for roughly six years logging more than 6,000 hours. … I was asked to be on the strategic plan committee and the trail committee with the national park.”

He went on to say that he has encountered problems with a few members of the Friends in the past. ∞