Our Story

At the request of the Russell Township Trustees, the Russell Park Commission was created in May, 1984, by a judgment of the Geauga County Probate Court under Ohio Statute, O.R.C. 1545. The Court, Judge Frank Lavrich presiding, appointed the first Park Commissioners: Clyde Evans Jr., Thomas Stanley, and Sanford Siegler. The new Commissioners met, adopted by-laws and goals and began a study of lands in Russell Township suitable for conservation and recreation purposes. Immediately available was land along the Chagrin River owned by the Township, lands donated to the Trustees by the August family and by Peter Rogers. In August 1984, Russell Trustees adopted a Resolution transferring administration of lands owned by the Township but not used for operating purposes to the new Park Commission. The Board of Trustees also donated $3,500 for initial operating expenses until receipts from the State Intangible Tax, Library, and Local Government Fund could be received. Next, Trustees agreed to transfer annually 0.15 mills from the Township’s inside millage to the Park Commission.

The Trustees had set aside receipts from from inheritance taxes for capital expenditures, believing that since these taxes could never be determined in advance and varied greatly from year to year, operating expenses must be paid for by more reliable receipts.

The Park Commission made its first purchase of land in 1985 hen Betty Brooks offered to sell four acres of wetland on both sides of the Chagrin River at the end of Riverside Drive for $5000.  She agreed to the sale price and was paid over several years as funds became available.  In 1986 Trustees acquired the remainder of the property, which had been purchased for a sewage treatment plant until that plan was abandoned.  It was named the “Back Forty” of the West Geauga Commons, and classified as a passive park.  In 1987 Trustees purchased the southeast corner of the Center and demolished its derelict gas station.  They authorized the Park Commission to establish a small park in its place.

In 1984 the Russell Trustees suggested that the Russell Park Commission consider preparing a zoning amendment to cover recreational and conservation use of township properties.  The Park Board prepared a draft for active and passive parks, active defined as organized recreation such as baseball fields, and passive being conservation use.  A draft was submitted to the Zoning Commission in 1985.  The Park Board, the Zoning Commission and legal advisor Dale Markowitz cooperated to refine and prepare the amendment for public hearing in early 1988.  It was approved and became law on March 26, 1988.  The West Geauga Commons and Bob Hall Memorial Field were designated active and the Back Forty and other conservation properties were designated passive.  Later, as more parcels were acquired by Trustees and Park Board, they were added to the passive park districts.

In 1992 Bebe Ober replaced Clyde Evans on the Park Commission, as he had just bee elected to the Board of Trustees.  Bebe Ober recommended asking voters for a levy for the purpose of purchasing conservation land.  A “Friends of Russell Parks Committee” to promote the levy was formed consisting of Bev Ries, Sandy VerDuin and Lauri McDonald.  In May voters approved a five-year, 1 mill levy by a two to one margin.  Residents supported renewal of the levy for over two decades.

In February 1992, with the financial help of Jean Taber, who donated $131,000, and also two adjoining landowners, Howard Shanker and James Haven, who donated $10,000 each, the Park Commission purchased at Sheriff’s auction the Haueter property for $175,000.  It consisted of 58 acres on both sides of the Chagrin River in Russell’s northeast quadrant.  It was named the Upper Chagrin Preserve.

Since 1992 many other properties have been purchased and conserved by the Russell Park Commission.  See the map on the documents page of the website for more information…


Meetings are held at The West Woods Nature Center.