WESTLAKE - Some residents are angry that the city cleared about a half-acre of trees last month to make room for a new family aquatics center at Clague Park, with one questioning whether the tree removal violated the deed by which the park was given to the community.
Nancy Miller and Jan Schmitt expressed their displeasure during City Council's April 5 meeting.
Miller said the pool’s location could have been moved to preserve the trees.
The new family aquatics center will be located at the current location of Peterson Pool but with a larger footprint. Thirty-four new parking spaces will be added. Features will include a lap/diving pool, a slide pool, a lazy river, an activity pool and a new pool house.
By a 7-0 vote April 5, Council authorized a $7.41 million contract with Seitz Builders of Broadview Heights, the lowest of three bidders to build the complex.
Trees covering about six-tenths of an acre, or 26,000 square feet, were cleared, City Engineer Bob Kelly said last week. City officials had indicated at public meetings that some trees would be cut down to make room for the larger aquatics center.
But Jan Schmitt told council members she was “shocked and disappointed” to see the trees come down.
“No one really knew about the trees being cut down,” she said.
Out of curiosity, Schmitt investigated whether the 1926 deed by Sophronia Clague who donated 78 acres of farmland to the village of Dover had any restrictions. (Clague Park, on the northwest corner of Clague Road and Hilliard Boulevard, makes up 66 acres.) A condition of the deed prohibited the cutting or destruction of “any live forest trees in the Woodlot.” The deed also called for the Clague House Museum to be maintained as “a public library.”
Mayor Dennis Clough said city officials had been unaware that the deed placed any such conditions the land besides using it for public recreation.
“As far as I knew, no one knew about that condition in the deed,” Clough told Schmitt.
Clough later said it's unclear whether the section of trees cleared for the aquatics center is in the woodlot mentioned in the deed.
A 1993 book on the history of Westlake by the late William Robishaw titled “You’ve Come a Long Way, Westlake” refers to an 1850 map of what became Clague Park and its 36 acres of woodlands. But such a map has not been located, the mayor said.
“We can't find any map showing where the woodlands really were,” he said.
Sophronia Clague's condition that no trees be cut down was inspired by the heartbreak she felt after many trees on her property were cut down when Hilliard Boulevard was extended through the community, according to Robishaw's book.
The city has and will continue to plant trees at Clague Park, the mayor said, and will look at planting trees in the area of the new aquatics center.
Voters approved funding the aquatics center in November by extending an existing one-eighth of 1 percent income tax, scheduled to expire at the end of 2020, for an additional 25 years. The $34.5 million measure will also fund other recreational amenities, including a new $9.4 million senior/community center to be built next to the rec center and a $7.4 million sports park with baseball diamonds and soccer fields. The plans for the ball fields will be the topic of an April 23 City Council committee meeting.
In surveys made during the development of a master plan for recreation, residents said their top priority was the replacement of Petersen Pool at Clague Park.
The new aquatics center will feature an extensive landscaping plan with several trees, Kelly said.