GRAFTON — Lorain County Metro Parks is taking a step toward linking its Indian Hollow Reservation properties with the former Royal Oaks Golf Club.
The parks district is purchasing the closed course off Parsons Road, between Sheldon Woods and the Midview Soccer Complex, giving park goers a new connection between the two properties.
When acquired, it will be turned into a park and will not be used as a golf course.
The original idea for the Grafton connector — the term Metro Parks officials used in July when they unveiled a 10-year master and capital improvement plan — was to provide a path between the properties through the golf course.
However, Jim Ziemnik, parks district director, said negotiations with the property owner quickly ballooned to include the Metro Parks acquiring the entire 90-acre parcel.
It is near the Black River and, even though it hasn’t been used in a while, it remains in near pristine condition.
“We were trying to get an easement or accessibility to a trail path, but the conversation quickly turned into us buying the whole piece,” he said. “We were not and are not looking to acquire another golf course, but when the idea was presented to us, we thought it would be a great addition to our portfolio for the area.”
Metro Parks secured state grants through the Clean Ohio fund to acquire the property. The parks district’s portion comes to about $125,000, or a 20 percent match of the near $650,000 deal.
The acquisition should be finalized in 60 to 90 days. A 100-foot easement will be needed to cross Parsons Road to fully connect the walking trails, but Ziemnik said parks officials do not expect problems securing it.
Grafton Mayor Megan Flanigan did not return a call Wednesday for comment.
The golf course will be left as a park, where visitors can walk trails, fish and bird watch. The purchase will give the Metro Parks a total of more than 700 acres of park space in the area.
“It’s a great property that will provide a host of recreational opportunities,” Ziemnik said. “There are already a small parking area and small clubhouse. It will be perfect for programming with our naturalists and winter activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The remnants of the old cart paths will be great for trails.”
Ziemnik said the park should be ready for guests by Thanksgiving or early December.
Metro Parks worked in conjunction with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to make the project happen, Ziemnik said. With its proximity to the Black River, it was deemed important to preserve the park in perpetuity.
“We view it as an important property due to the habitat protection for a variety of native species on the property including plants, birds and insects,” said Joe Leslie, director of acquisition for the nonprofit conservation organization. “A number of bird species have been spotted there including juvenile bald eagles, fledgling great horned owl and other native and migratory bird species. We are pleased to be able to assistant the Lorain County Metro Parks with this important project.”
The Lorain County plan mirrors one that unfolded in Lyndhurst in Cuyahoga County with the old Acacia golf course, which now is a thriving part of Cleveland Metroparks.
Correction: A locator map that appeared with this story in Thursday's paper was incorrect.