Russell Township Citizens’ Park Board Focused on Building Bridges
November 29, 2021 by Ann Wishart

The first bridge over a Chagrin River tributary is in place and a habitat exploration is underway at the Upper Chagrin Preserve in Russell Township.

The first bridge over a Chagrin River tributary is in place and a habitat exploration is underway at the Upper Chagrin Preserve in Russell Township.

Members of the Russell Township Citizens’ Park District board discussed the progress made on Nov. 18 since March, when the district was given stewardship of the forested parcels.

The bridge was built by Russell Township resident Michael Blades on the concrete abutments of the historic Interurban Railroad bridge, said district secretary Maria Livers. Construction cost $5,250 and included transporting the lumber and materials from dead-end Beechwood Drive across the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company power line easement and through the heavily-wooded preserve, she said.

It also included clearing the path to the tributary site, said park district chairman Roy Podojil.

“Now we can get to the second bridge without any problems,” he said.

Students from Gilmore Academy are planning to take a field trip to the preserve led by Darci Sanders, the academy’s nature-based learning coordinator.

In preparation for the field trip, Livers said Sanders seined the tributary for invertebrates and collected water samples from the Chagrin River headwaters so her students could hold a mock habitat exploration in the classroom. An on-site study is expected in the future.

“She found a variety of indicator species in the water. It’s a good, healthy river,” Livers said, adding biology classes in other districts may be interested in habitat exploration at the Upper Chagrin Preserve.

“She’s very excited and will contact West Geauga (Schools),” she said.

The bridge project used about a quarter of the board’s funds, which come from local government and public library funds, said board member Perry Howland.

Before paying for the bridge, the board had $19,577, he said.

The year after township residents voted to create the RTCPD, a levy for support of the board’s activities failed. In the May 2020 election, the issue received 698 votes in favor and 828 opposed.

The five-year, 1-mill additional levy would have yielded about $270,000 per year and cost the homeowners $35 annually per $100,000 in property valuation, according to the Geauga County Auditor’s Office.

SUBMITTED

Roy Podojil, chairman of the Russell Township Citizens’ Park Board, inspects the board’s first project in the Upper Chagrin Preserve — a bridge across a tributary of the Chagrin River built by Michael Blades of Russell Township. Area schools will be welcome to conduct habitat explorations of the waterways in the preserve, district officials said.