Residents on Monday expressed concerns over safety of a proposed location for a parking lot at the Modroo parkland off Hemlock Road.
On Wednesday, officials put the parking issue on a temporary hold. Russell Township Park District board member Dennis Suhay said John Oros, director of the Geauga Park District, asked that decisions on the issue be delayed until the Modroo property master plan is finalized. Russell and county representatives will meet within the next couple weeks to discuss the plan, Mr. Suhay said.
Concerns were voiced during a special meeting of the Russell Township Park District board on Monday. Some residents said the location could negatively impact adjacent home values.
The parking area for six vehicles is being planned with the entrance across from Riddle Lane. The lot would be located near the entrance to the trails being planned for the 53 acres of parkland owned by the park district.
The Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which holds a conservation easement on the site, is putting $50,000 toward improvements on the project, said Joe Leslie, vice president real estate for the conservancy.
This was considered the best location for the parking lot, he said. Emergency vehicles could turn around easily, he said, and the lot would be tucked behind a wooded edge of the property allowing tree planting to create a buffer.
Plans call for a pergola with a map to be built at the point where visitors enter the trail from the parking lot. There would be several stone benches with names of those who donated toward the park, Mr. Leslie said. Trail markers recognizing people supportive of the project also would be placed on the trail as well brick pavers with names of contributors placed under the pergola, he said.
Asked about making the lot bigger, Mr. Leslie said the conservancy has a limited budget. Many have requested a smaller parking area, he added.
The Geauga Park District which has a 15-year lease agreement with the Russell Township Park District for operating, caring for and maintaining the township park district’s parklands will be mowing a walking trail on the 53 acres of Modroo parkland, a former cornfield.
Patrick McCarthy, representing the Modroo Homeowners Association off Riddle Road, said a parking lot for about six cars would be good. The residents’ main concern, he said, is as it relates to Riddle Road.
If there is an overflow of traffic, there is a concern for safety. There is a hairpin turn on Hemlock Road with lots of accidents, he said. If there are two or three cars parked on Riddle Road as an overflow from the park, there could be accidents, he said.
Mr. McCarthy also noted that at the Geauga Park District’s Frohring Meadows in Bainbridge, the parking lot is in the middle of the park, hidden from the road. A similar design at Modroo would not affect the neighbors and traffic, he said.
Mr. Suhay said the board would have to further discuss this issue. Park board members also include Donna Weiss Carson and Michael Gavin. Mr. Suhay noted that with cars coming in and out at Riddle Road and Hemlock Road, a parking lot entrance there could be a problem.
Greg Gyllstrom of Hemlock Road thanked the conservancy and park board for saving the Modroo land. “It’s simply phenomenal.”
He noted that the primary and most significant impact of the parking area falls on the house at Riddle and Hemlock roads. “I’m sure they didn’t realize the park district would be building a parking lot across from their house in their direct view.”
It is a big plot of land, he said of the Modroo property and a commonsense plan for the parking lot should be possible.
The request, he said, is to design a parking lot consistent with the park with a modest berm area and some greenery. A landscape architect along with the Russell park board and residents could collaborate on the plan and on a solution, Mr. Gyllstrom said.
He noted the Russell Uplands Preserve off Russell Road has one of the best parking areas. It is shielded and very sensitive to the residents, he said. It has a nice entrance with a respectful sign. Certainly the same could be done with Modroo, he said.
“We’re initiating a dialogue in a quiet and respectful way,” he said. A commitment is needed to do it right. “We are lucky enough to present concerns to them before any dirt gets moved.”
Resident Howard Shanker suggested the park district work on landscaping the parking lot and planting trees.
Mr. Gyllstrom also noted he was unaware of the concerns for the traffic on Hemlock Road although it is known that motorists speed on the roadway. He said they welcome the input from the Modroo Homeowners Association.
Mr. Leslie noted that the engineer approved the location and the landscape architect is going to be working on drawings.
Mr. Leslie said parking too far into the property could impact the vista. The idea is to tuck it behind the tree line, he said, about 40 feet off Hemlock Road.
Resident Charlie Butters noted the parking lot cannot be moved too far back because there would not be much left of the 53 acres of parkland.
Linda O’Brien said there are bobolinks and other nesting birds and animals on the site and the park was supposed to be passive with no major activities. The entrance near Riddle Road is the safest site, she said. Trees blocking the view of the parking lot, however, could create a safety concern about vandals and abductions, Ms. O’Brien noted.
Shelley Chernin said promises have been made to meet with neighbors of Modroo and that has not been done.
Ms. O’Brien said when she was on the park board, she spent multiple meetings with Rich Cochran walking the Modroo property and laying out trails. Mr. Suhay said they are willing to go out and walk the property and meet with neighbors.
Mr. Leslie said the goal was to have a natural area to walk and that was the vision years ago. This warrants a small parking area, he added.
Mr. Suhay noted that the parking lot is ultimately up to the land conservancy which is paying for the project. He said on Tuesday that he will try his best to get the parking lot moved and more trees planted, but nothing is guaranteed. “I would like to get the issues resolved.”
Discussions will continue at the park board’s Oct. 14 meeting.