On a beautiful May afternoon, CREW Cleveland gathered for lunch at Merwin’s Wharf nestled quaintly along the Cuyahoga River. With a warm breeze and summery sky, all the doors and windows were propped open for our very appropriately named, “Spring Has Sprung” event. Our speaker for the day was Rose Fini, Chief Legal and Ethics Officer of the Cleveland Metroparks. Rose was joined by her colleague, Stephanie Kutsko, Land Protection Coordinator of the Cleveland Metroparks. Rose walked us through the history and growth of the Metroparks since its inception in 1917. Today, the Cleveland Metroparks include 18 park reservations with more than 23,600 acres across 48 diverse communities in the greater Cleveland area. That equates to approximately 300 miles of hiking, biking, bridle and all-purpose trails that are enjoyed by our community. The parks are governed by Cleveland Metroparks Board of Park Commissioners, composed of three citizens who serve three-year terms (without compensation). As such, the parks function as a separate political subdivision of the state of Ohio.
After discussion of park history, governmental structure and future plans, Stephanie stepped in to discuss the land acquisition process. Land added to the Metroparks is often acquired though private donors or private land sale, from developers or sometimes in conjunction with the city of Cleveland. Each acquisition is studied by the Metroparks team to determine if the property is in line with the organization’s Mission Statement: “Cleveland Metroparks will conserve significant natural resources and enhance people’s lives by integrating high-quality outdoor education, recreation and zoological opportunities into people’s lives”. Acquisitions are also studied for affordability as the Metroparks, impressively, functions as a debt free organization.
The day concluded with time for Q&A, but most importantly, with time for those in attendance to express their gratitude for the Cleveland Metroparks and for the expansive use they receive on a daily basis from all those in our community. It was abundantly clear what an asset the Metroparks are to the city of Cleveland!
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Schneider Smeltz Spieth Bell LLP