Cleveland MetroParks:
Lacking conservation vision?

The following article appeared in the July 2003 edition of the Sierra Club of Northeast Ohio newsletter. It was written by the group's conservation committee chair, Bob Greenbaum.


"People weary of a busy and commercial urban life need a
refuge of woodlands, water, hills, grass and wildlife to
provide healthful rest and recreation," according to William Stinchcomb, founder of the Cleveland Metroparks. "We must
have these great outdoor rest places close to a great
industrial city such as this is, and as working days grow
shorter we must find healthful ways of filling leisure
time." Stinchcomb was the founder and head of the
Metroparks until 1957.

How far we have come from Stinchcomb's vision. The
Cleveland Metroparks have stagnated and descended into a parochial, development-driven political exercise. Far more
resources go into active recreational uses, such as the
zoo and golf courses, than in to passive recreation, land
acquisition, preservation, and wildlife expansion. A vision
of conservation improvement for the parks is sorely lacking
at the commission level. It should not be necessary for
Sierra Club member Diana Steele and others to attend all
Metroparks Commissioners meetings as a check on their

That the Metroparks need far more public oversight than they have been getting is obvious from the recent disclosures in the Plain Dealer of the sweetheart deal to enable an [unnamed] board member and Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert Bennett to benefit personally from Metroparks construction of a large maintenance facility on a meadow in the Rocky River Reservation, built in opposition to their own naturalist staff recommendations.

Other Ohio park systems have far outstripped the Cleveland system in performance, notably those of Columbus and neighboring Geauga County. In fact, the Geauga Park District has spent more than $6 million acquiring 1,300 acres since the start of 2001, shielding the property from development pushing east from Cuyahoga County. The purchases bring park holdings to roughly 6,200 acres, a 26 percent increase from 2000. Cleveland Metroparks holdings have stagnated at roughly 19,000 acres for many, many years.

Although the Cleveland Metroparks publication Metroparks
2000: Conserving Our Natural Heritage: Park District Plan

states the primary responsibility of Cleveland Metroparks is
the conservation of natural resources, so it will: Provide
leadership in protecting the open space values of an
additional 10,000 acres of land within the region by the
year 2020, the record of the current commission inspires no
confidence that this laudable goal will be met.

Public control of Cleveland Metroparks is specified in Ohio
Law as a three person commission appointed by Presiding
Judge of County Probate Court. In Cuyahoga County that post is currently held by Judge John Donnelly.

Three things are required to make the Cuyahoga Metroparks Commissioners more responsive to conservation concerns:

1. Judge Donnelly should appoint a commission member
with extensive naturalist and biological background, not
another political insider.

2. In preparation for the expected 2004 Cleveland
Metroparks ballot levy, a practical long range plan must be
fully developed and publicly debated that guarantees
achieving the goal of 10,000 acres of new parkland by 2020; that preserves the remaining undeveloped land of the Metroparks in a natural and pristine state; that provides extensive programming and opportunities for families and schoolchildren to directly experience the awe and wonder of Creation. This plan should be thoroughly coordinated with the Cuyahoga County Greenspace Plan that has been the subject of public discourse in this year past.

3. Far more ongoing oversight of the spending of the
Cleveland Metroparks.

Judge Donnelly is quoted in the Plain Dealer saying he has
not heard conservation concerns from the community. Let us begin to express ourselves directly to him

Please write to:

Hon. John Donnelly
1 Lakeside Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Would you like to be on a contact list for ongoing
Metroparks oversight? Let us know. The NEO Sierra Club
Executive Committee has voted to make involvement in the Cleveland Metroparks a major priority. They need your help. Please provide Sierra Club with a copy of your letter so they have documented proof of community sentiment for better Metroparks performance. copies (preferred method of communication) or mail to: Sierra Club, Northeastern Ohio Group, 4105 Stilmore Rd., Cleveland, Ohio 44121.


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EcoCity Cleveland
3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2003

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Far more resources go into active recreational uses, such as the zoo and golf courses, than in to passive recreation, land acquisition, preservation, and wildlife expansion.


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