The Eastern Townships of Geauga County seem miles away from the sprawling Cleveland Metropolitan area as I drove down Route 322 at noon yesterday. Driving up and down the hills of Munson and Claridon Township, I recalled all the times I went with my Father as a teenager to Rolling Greens Golf Course way out in Huntsburg, Ohio for golf lessons. Just before that, the road crossed over the tip of the East Branch Reservoir which is in fact part of the Cuyahoga River. As I drove past this man-made lake again, I wondered if the golf course remained the same as well. Sure enough, I recognized it instantly as I pulled into their parking lot. Rolling Greens was to all appearances still a very nice, neat, and busy place with golf carts and golfers heading towards the fairways. As I sat on a white picnic bench on the back patio looking at the scene, I realized that I haven’t been there in over two decades. Why did I leave my golf clubs at home?
Within twenty minutes, I backtracked my trail to Route 608 and headed South to Middlefield for lunch at Mary Yoder’s. Mary Yoder’s, featuring Amish cooking, does a brisk business and is not far from the main intersection in town. This place, close to the Trumbull County Line, always seemed a remote place to me as a kid when I went with my parents down there on an occasional road trip. It wasn’t the sight of Amish buggies heading down the road that was the only reason for thinking this.
Warren Ohio is closer to Middlefield than Cleveland or Akron and it was surrounded by real working farms, not the exurban ranch houses or new housing developments that were even as a kid popping up on the Western side of this county. However, unlike the golf course, Middlefield has changed a bit. The center of town seems a whole lot busier now than years ago. Driving my car West on Route 87, everything around me was more reminiscent of Chesterland than Huntsburg. it’s a bit of exurbia with traffic, shops with parking lots full of cars in front of them, and even a Giant Eagle Grocery Store in a small shopping center. I also noticed more signs for acreage being for sale; with lots available rather than orchards.
It is in counties such as Geauga that sustainable development and conservation easement programs are so critical. I heard at a small meeting recently that a county commissioner out there made the comment that some wanted to make the county a ‘big park for Cleveland.’ A councilwoman from Chardon, the county seat, said “Fine by me,” and that sums up pretty much the debate out there regarding development. Smart growth doesn’t mean economic development, and jobs, won’t exist, but minimize the waste our current urban sprawl model creates. Would Bainbridge, a township bordering Cuyahoga County and booming with growth, like to wind up like the inner ring suburbs of Cleveland; many of whose former residents have moved out there? Some of the Amish of Middlefield have left too; driving their buggies to more rural pastures. Organizations like the Holden Arboretum and Western Reserve Land Conservancy are trying in their way to provide an answer for these issues and some local property owners have taken advantage of land easement programs.
It would be interesting to see where all this leads in the next few decades.