The Southgate Farm Acquisition project was a once in a lifetime undertaking that, when realized, met the needs of the city, its various partnering organizations, and the local community. Since its incorporation, the city has solely obtained over 215 acres of parkland and has developed it into various active recreation community parks and sport complexes.
Acquiring the Southgate Farm was an exceptional opportunity for the State of Ohio, the City of Green, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the Akron-Canton Airport to form a partnership to fulfill the needs of residents who prefer passive recreation activities, while averting degradation to prime ecologically sensitive land and its surrounding ecosystems, wetland resources, and existing plant and animal habitats.
The acquisition of the Southgate Farm was an extension of many private, public, and state organizations' hard work and dedication for the preservation of one of our most depleted resources… the natural landscape.
Setting the Stage
The City of Green (incorporated in 1992) is a suburban Ohio community located between the cities of Akron and Canton along the Interstate 77 corridor. The community is experiencing robust residential and commercial growth, which is attributable to the attractiveness of the community and its transportation accessibility.
The Akron-Canton Airport, known as the nation's "biggest little airport," the highly acclaimed Green Local School District, quality municipal, county, and state parks systems, and a great centralized location are a few of the many draws that attract businesses and families to Green.
Even before its incorporation as a city, this former farming and agricultural township saw much of its open space being developed into residential neighborhoods and professional business, commercial and industrial parks. For that reason city leaders, who recognized the importance of green space preservation, created a unique charter provision which allocated 10 percent of the city's 1 percent income tax to the city's parks and recreation division for land acquisition and other park capital improvement projects.
More recently, the charter provision was amended to provide the parks and recreation division with 7 percent of the 2 percent collected income tax.
In August 2005, ultimately acting upon the desire of residents as expressed in a 2004 Citywide Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment, the City of Green finalized the purchase of 197 acres of well-preserved, natural habitat known as Southgate Farm with funding assistance from the State of Ohio Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the Akron-Canton Airport.
Southgate Farm is the largest natural area owned by the city and was acquired in order to provide public access to a beautiful and unique natural resource in the community.
The acquisition project began in July of 2004 when the city's Mayor, Dan Croghan, and the City of Green Planning Department were approached by the previous owners of the property to discuss development of the farm into a large-lot residential subdivision.
Through subsequent meetings and discussions, it was determined that a better use for the land could be fashioned, since Southgate Farm happened to be located adjacent to the city-owned Boettler Recreation Park and one of the most significant natural areas remaining in Ohio, the Singer Lake Basin Nature Preserve, which is owned by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Fear that residential development of Southgate Farm would greatly impact and threaten the sensitive ecosystems and water quality of Singer Lake prompted a closer analysis of the land use.
The adjacent Singer Lake Basin harbors the largest leatherleaf bog in Ohio, 34 plant species as noted on the 2002-03 Ohio Rare Plant List of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 37 dragonfly species, and 17 damselfly species (three species of which are considered very rare in the State of Ohio).
In addition to more than 50 acres of leatherleaf bog and various plant and insect species, the Basin has a five-acre deep-kettle lake that is surrounded by sensitive tamarack, cranberries, and sphagnum.
Other wetland communities in the basin are buttonbush shrub swamp, blueberry/huckleberry shrub swamps, pond lily marshes, and many aquatic beds.
The city has worked with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History since 1996 to help them acquire property in and around the Singer Lake Basin. The Museum has ownership of approximately 225 acres of environmentally sensitive land that composes and surrounds the Singer Lake Basin. It was only natural that when the opportunity presented itself for the City to acquire Southgate Farm, that the museum be involved.
Mayor Croghan, city planning department staff and the city's parks and recreation board, along with the museum, believed that the best use of the Southgate Farm property was not as a residential subdivision, but as natural open space to provide a buffer to the Singer Lake Basin, which would allow the preservation of similar habitats and native species.
Just as at the Singer Lake Basin, the Southgate Farm property contains many acres of significant wetlands, 33 acres of an extraordinary Black Oak Savannah/Sand Barren woodland community, portions of Glacial Bog remnants, and supports native plant, animal, and insect species.
Therefore, the main goals of the city and the museum were to acquire the land for open space, wetland preservation and restoration, protection of existing endangered species, and interconnection of the property to other established natural and recreational areas.
Ownership plans called for the city to be the primary owner of the majority (164 acres) of the Southgate Farm acreage and to jointly own with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History the 33 acres of the Southgate Farm Property that borders the Singer Lake Basin Nature Preserve.
Financial Resource Partners:
City of Green
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Clean Ohio Conservation Grant
Airport Wetland Mitigation Dollars
Total Acquisition Costs
The city and museum's acquisition of Southgate Farm consisted of obtaining the land as an open space project under the State of Ohio's Clean Ohio Conservation Fund Program, which involved a pledge for the enhancement of existing natural areas and the preservation of high quality wetland along with the native plant and animal species.
Also important was the ability to link the property to existing local, state and private parkland and pedestrian corridors in the area. Permanent conservation easements and deed restrictions were placed on the entire site in order to protect and safeguard the land for future generations and prevent any type of future development.
The Akron-Canton Airport also played a part in the financial resources that permitted the city to acquire Southgate Farm. The Akron-Canton Airport contributed approximately $230,000 in Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wetland Mitigation funding to preserve and restore existing wetlands that occur on Southgate Farm.
The 12 acres of wetland areas on the farm, which are planned to be enhanced and preserved through the efforts of the Akron-Canton Airport, will carry an additional conservation easement with the Ohio EPA.
It is hoped that preserving and protecting the sensitive aspects of Southgate Farm will promote the existence of various endangered species and the near extinct woodland communities that currently inhabit the farm.
The 33 acres of the farm, which supports the native Black Oak Savannah/Sand Barren Community, is one of the most threatened natural communities in northeast Ohio and would be beneficial to repopulate.
As a result, the city and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History have entered into a joint cooperative agreement to care for and protect Southgate Farm and its sensitive ecosystems. Part of this arrangement calls for the development of both a reforestation management plan and an invasive species management plan for the site.
The State of Ohio, the city, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History strongly believe that the acquisition of the property will prevent degradation of Southgate Farm and the surrounding Singer Lake Basin ecosystems.
Passive recreation plans are currently being developed to enhance the present system of hiking trails and add park furniture in strategic locations on the site to encourage the public to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
Southgate Farm also contains various historic structures such as an 1883 Victorian Farm House and Barn. The city has made a provision for the Summit County Sheriff's Office to use the barn and surrounding pastures for the boarding of its mounted patrol unit.
Acreage of Public/Private Park Land
Singer Lake Basin Nature Preserve
Boettler Recreation Park
As an end result, the acquisition of Southgate Farm combined with the acreage of Boettler Recreation Park and the Singer Lake Basin Nature Preserve provides for 571 contiguous acres of both active and passive recreational opportunities for local residents and the northeast Ohio region. The grand opening of the Southgate Farm to the public is scheduled for spring 2006.
Southgate Park provides residents of Green and surrounding communities an opportunity to engage more frequently in passive recreation activities.
A network of trails is to be developed, encouraging park visitors to hike through the various terrain of wooded lands, open meadows, along lake shore lines, ponds and streams. These same trails will be open during winter months, as weather permits, for cross-country skiing.
The trail system to be developed will become the home course for the Green High School cross-country teams. City officials are currently working with other local and state organizations in developing a trail system to tie into existing state and county trail plans.
Additionally, the parks and recreation division will permit controlled fishing within the park in each of the six pons located on the property. These ponds are stocked with catfish, large-mouth bass and other small pan fish.
Wildlife observation, however, may be the most practiced form of passive recreation in the park. Southgate Park abounds with deer, small game, birds and other wildlife.
Southgate Park answers the desires of many residents of Green who expressed an interest in wildlife protection and green space preservation. As a result, the park will provide recreational and educational opportunities for several generations to come.
Dan Croghan is Mayor of the City of Green, Mike Elkins is the Parks and Recreation Superintendent, Patty Schehl is the Community Development Administrator, Wayne Wiethe is the Director of Planning and Craig Zins is the City Service Director.