Land Conservancy Helps
Preserve Former Girl Scout Camp
In the wake of a landmark vote in voters in the Summit County community of Richfield approved the acquisition of the 336-acre former Camp Crowell Hilaka, Western Reserve Land Conservancy is now helping the fledgling Richfield Joint Recreation District explore additional public funding sources and potential uses for the property.
Two levies – one to purchase the former Girl Scout camp, the other to operate it – were approved by voters in the village of Richfield and Richfield Township in the November 2014 general election. The Land Conservancy, which had earlier negotiated a purchase and sale agreement for the property with the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio, praised the community for approving the measures.
GSNEO had closed the camp in 2011.
The Crowell Hilaka property was in danger of being developed or timbered before the community stepped in to acquire it. The effort was spearheaded by village and township officials, the Land Conservancy, the Friends of Crowell Hilaka, Richfield Together, the Richfield Historical Society and others.
“This is a thoughtful, forward-thinking decision that will benefit all the residents of Richfield for generations to come,” said Joe Leslie, director of acquisitions for the Land Conservancy. “Our goal was to conserve this beautiful property, and the voters of Richfield should be congratulated for making it happen.”
The Land Conservancy spent more than a year searching for an end owner aligned with the organization’s conservation mission; that owner emerged when voters endorsed the acquisition by the RJRD. The Land Conservancy has since taken title to the property and is negotiating a purchase agreement with RJRD.
At the same time, the Land Conservancy, which has extensive experience in applying for Clean Ohio grants and other public funding, is helping RJRD explore those options at no cost to the district. Leslie said each grant program has a different set of restrictions based on the purpose of the funding, and it will be up to the RJRD Board of Trustees to determine what portion or portions of the property would be appropriate for grant funding.
The recreation district’s website states: “The RJRD Board of Trustees have considered this property and have found the natural resources present at Crowell Hilaka to be a valuable asset that would allow for the development of an urban recreational area for the community of Richfield as well as a tourist draw for visitors near and far.”
The Crowell Hilaka property is located between Broadview and Oviatt roads, north of state Route 303. It has hiking trails, two lakes, opportunities for overnight accommodations, a large capacity dining hall with a commercial grade kitchen, as well as historic homes once owned by the Oviatt and Neal families and inventor James Kirby.
Western Reserve Land Conservancy has preserved 558 properties and 41,954 acres in northern Ohio, including 175 private farms and nearly 24,000 acres of farmland. In addition, the Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute works statewide to help revitalize Ohio’s urban centers.