Cleveland Metroparks buys $3.8 million golf course and restores it to its natural state

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Metroparks plans to expand Solon’s South Chagrin Reservation by adding nearly 150 acres of a defunct golf course and restoring it to its natural state as a protected green space.

The property, part of Hawthorne Valley Country Club, would cost the park district more than $3.8 million for 149 acres. Park commissioners recently voted to purchase the property and a government conservation grant that would cover more than half the cost.

“Acquiring a portion of the Hawthorne Valley Country Club property is a land conservation opportunity consistent with our mission to protect nature, connect communities and inspire protection of our world,” said Jacqueline L. Gerling, park district communications director E-mail.

The park district plans to preserve the land as a landscaped area that will serve as a habitat for plants and wildlife, Gerling said. Trails are being developed that connect to the South Chagrin Reservation. A large pond offers fishing for blue gill and perch.

The sale of the property is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

Triggered by development plans

The property became available when the Hawthorne Valley Country Club attempted to develop housing on its property adjacent to the golf course. Opened in 1926, the golf club has been closed since 2018.

In 2020, Solon voters approved zoning changes needed for Hawthorne Valley Country Club, operating as Hawthorn Golf Estates, to build 105 homes on 33 acres of its land.

The apartments would be aimed at owners aged 50 and over. The homes would each have a minimum floor area of ​​1,500 square feet and have a master bedroom on the first floor. Units would start at $350,000.

The language in this zone change has reserved the 149 acres as a perpetual green space. That year, Hawthorne Valley approached Cleveland Metroparks to inquire about the Parks District purchasing the property.

Solon Mayor Ed Kraus said after the 2020 vote the green space component is important.

“I think that was the deciding factor (for voters),” Kraus said. “I think the living is great – and the nice amenities that come with it – but for the residents I think it was about preserving the green space. They will not develop this property.”

This map, produced by Cleveland Metroparks, shows the 33 acres that Hawthorne Golf Estates plans to use to build 105 homes and the 149 acres that Cleveland Metroparks plans to acquire and restore to its natural state.

External reviews and a former commissioner

Hawthorne Valley Country Club is owned by TransCon Builders. Fred Rzepka, the longest serving parks commissioner in Cleveland Metroparks history, is President of TransCon.

Rzepka, now 90, resigned from the park board a decade ago after 22 years of service. He is widely credited with hiring Vern Hartenburg, a longtime district executive who, along with Rzepka, restored the parks district’s image, which had been tarnished by reports of contract irregularities, nepotism, and cost overruns in the development of Cleveland’s rainforest Metroparks zoos.

After the Hawthorne Valley Country Club approached Cleveland Metroparks about purchasing the property, the park district hired outside independent appraisers to help set a price for the green space lot, Gerling said.

Similar restoration

The project would be of a similar scope to the work at the former Acacia Country Club in Lyndhurst. The park district acquired the golf course in 2012, renamed it the Acacia Reservation and has restored the 155-acre property to its natural state.

The green space of the Hawthorne Valley surrounds the site of the 33-acre development. The northern boundary of the 149-acre Aurora Road frontage where the current golf course ramp would allow visitors access to the conservation area.

The land includes a long stretch of Hawthorn Creek, which empties into Tinker’s Creek, the largest tributary of the Cuyahoga River.

North and south of the development, the property borders the South Chagrin Reservation west of the Hawthorn Parkway.

Access to the proposed housing development would connect to the Hawthorn Parkway about halfway between Aurora Road and Solon Road.

funding of the project

The application to the Ohio Public Works Commission for money from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund is $2.04 million. The city of Solon has pledged $500,000.

Cleveland Metroparks has pledged $118,000 along with the money from Clean Ohio.

That’s a total of $2.72 million of the $3.85 million purchase price. Metroparks will seek other sources such as donations for the property but will foot the bill for any remaining costs, per agenda notes from the district’s September meeting.

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