SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Area residents can get their first glimpse of a now-defunct golf course transforming into a public park.
Larry Frimerman, director of Ashtabula County Metroparks, said the project is in the making — Western Reserve Land Conservancy bought the 156-acre Harbor Golf Club and plans to sell 118 acres to Metroparks.
The former golf course property encompasses more than 146 acres between Lake Road West and Carpenter Road in Saybrook Township. The former owner, Members Group LLC, sold those parcels for a combined $1 million to Hemlock Gorge LLC, a Western Reserve Land Conservancy holdings entity, in late December.
Frimerman said the Metroparks signed an agreement with the Land Conservancy so "we can begin prepping the property to be a park," while they work to secure the necessary grant funding to acquire the property from the land conservancy.
In January, it was announced the Ashtabula County Metroparks would receive a $367,000 federal grant, which would be coupled with $530,000 from the Ohio Public Works Commission conservationist Clean Ohio Fund, a $10,000 grant from Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ NatureWorks Grant Program and about $165,000 from its own coffers to buy the land.
The grants have been slow coming, but the same plans are in place, Frimerman said.
While the golf course has ready-made trails and a parking lot, there's still plenty of work to be done, Frimerman said.
"We hired a firm to rip out the overgrown shrubs (out front) and mow the property," he said. "Now people can see Martini's (Restaurant) as they drive by."
Norm Jepson, chairman of the Saybrook Township trustees, said he noticed activity at the site.
"I saw them pulling out bushes on Lake Road," he said. "We are looking forward to moving forward with the park."
On Sunday and Monday, workers will be redoing the driveway and circle, as well as sealing and finishing the parking lot.
"We want it all to look like new," he said.
Frimerman said when the golf-course-to-park transition is complete, the park will draw tourists and wildlife.
"There’s steelhead trout in Red Brook," he said.
The park will offer walking and jogging trails as well as fishing in the summer and cross-country skiing and sledding in the winter.
"We are putting in a sledding hill behind the pro shop," he said.
Austinburg Township Fiscal Officer David Thomas said the county needs more winter activities for families and the golf club to park project is something to get excited about.
"This type of improvement is exciting," he said. "Families can go out for pizza on Bridge Street, spend the afternoon sledding at the park and take in a show at the Ashtabula Arts Center in the evening."
Ashtabula City Council President John Roskovics said the property is a "beautiful and vital part of our community."
In 2008, a group of private investors purchased what was known then as the Ashtabula Country Club and made the golf course public, renaming it the Harbor Golf Club. The golf course closed three years ago.
Now, Metroparks is looking to acquire the the land for preservation as well as active recreation, such as a playground or water park.
Saybrook Township Trustee Bob Brobst said township residents want walking trails.
“This will more than accommodate them,” he said.
Jepson said people walk their dogs on the trails now.
Frimerman said the Land Conservancy is going to keep about 30 acres of the property, opening it up for development.
Residents can take a look at the conceptual drawing of the proposed park at the township’s administrative office, 7247 Center Road (Route 45).