The Geauga Park District Planning Department will move forward to file for up to $75,000 worth of an Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant for improvements at Eldon Russell in Burton Township.
The park district board of commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to file for the ODNR Paddling Enhancement Grant through the ODNR Waterways Safety Fund during their regular meeting on Tuesday.
Executive Director John Oros explained that Geauga Park District Park Planner Annie Lynch sat on a committee with the Upper Cuyahoga River Watershed Task Force. He said part of this initiative provided additional signage to direct people to more paddling opportunities in Geauga’s parks.
He added that part of the collaboration with the watershed partners is the opportunity to apply for the enhancement grant.
“This is strictly for enhancements to our areas where there’s access for hand-powered water craft as is the case at Eldon Russell Park,” Mr. Oros said.
Director of Planning and Operations Matt McCue provided preliminary plans of the improvements to the board for the site, which is right against the Cuyahoga River off Rapids Road.
Renderings of the preliminary plans show improvements to the picnic shelter, including refurbishing the Horwath’s Shelter and adding amenities like a fire pit; improving river access for pedestrians and boat launching; picnic and gathering spaces; parking areas and lot connection; boat storage; river edge stabilization and a new restroom.
“With the fluctuation of water levels, that area often gets pretty muddy,” Mr. Oros said, adding that stabilizing the area might maintain proper conditions and make it more popular to guests.
In other park news, Mr. Oros introduced allowing the Geauga County Veterans Commission to utilize the banquet center of Veterans Legacy Woods to provide veterans services.
“The first floor is currently vacant,” Mr. Oros said, explaining that he ran the possibility of utilizing the space past Veterans Service Commission Director Michele Pemberton as to whether the commission could use the space, be it for offices or services.
The idea was not up for vote, Mr. Oros said, but just for discussion among the commissioners to see if this could be incorporated into the district’s master planning process.
“I think we were all in [agreement] with something of this nature, but details of that need to be discussed,” Commissioner Jackie Dottore said, adding that the district wants to be sure they can maintain access to the commercial kitchen of the banquet center.
Currently, the upper floor of the banquet center is available for reservations through the Geauga Park District. The district has also been in the process of negotiating contracts for catering at the center in hopes of using a caterer alongside future park events.
Ms. Pemberton, who attended the meeting, said she believed that utilizing the space would provide collaborative opportunities between the county and the parks.
“I think it would be a great asset for the community to bring everybody together in one location,” Ms. Pemberton said. “We can have bigger events there for the veterans and their families and everybody you partner with could actually come there. So with [Geauga County] Jobs and Family Services, UH Hospitals and all the other agencies, we can actually have something for the veterans themselves.”
Mr. Oros said the park district will move the idea forward through the master planning process to gather more information to revisit at a later time.