GREEN The city of Green is hopeful to return the Levi J. Hartong Farmstead in Southgate Park to its roots by finding a farmer to live in the farmhouse and tend to the land.
The city purchased the 205-acre Southgate Park in 2006 and received a $1.2 million land grant from Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC). The 3,523-square-foot farmhouse and farm are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Portions of the home date back to 1883.
In 2014, the city developed a Request For Proposal document to find someone to utilize the land. The city selected Sasha and James Miller because their proposal was for permaculture for the land surrounding the farmhouse and they wanted to teach residents about how they could have permaculture in their own backyard. The original proposal sought to use 15 acres of land for crops or livestock.
OPWC reviewed the Miller's proposal and ruled it did not fit within the restrictions of the grant it provided to the city. Specifically, concerns were cited about how the proposal would change the historic lay of the land.
The city plans to work with Countryside, an organization dedicated to reviving farmland as they work closely with several farmers in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Tracy Emrick, CEO of Countryside, plans to work with the city to select a farmer for the property.
Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer said the 20 acres of land near the farmhouse had restrictions on it from OPWC which prevented the city from moving forward on the last proposal. Through the NEXUS Pipeline Settlement, the city received 20 acres of parkland adjacent to Boettler Park. OPWC has agreed the city can move the restrictions to that land and remove it from the land near the farmhouse.
Neugebauer said he has no plans other than trails for the 20 acres received through the settlement because the pipeline runs through it. The trails would connect Thorsby Road and Koons Road to Boettler Park.
Emrick said it is wonderful the city is having these discussions about the property.
“Properties like this are disappearing,” Emrick said. “It is a wonderful farmstead.”
She stressed how every single day farmers play an important role in people’s lives.
“They produce everything we consume,” Emrick said.
At one point, there were around 300 farmsteads within the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park, she said. Many of them were abandoned and too far gone to save. Currently, there are 10 farms in Countryside's program. There is a flower farm, pick your own berry farm and a livestock farm just to name a few.
Emrick said finding the right person to preserve history is important as they need to be able to maintain the land and also find a way to interact with the public who visits the park.
The same will go for the Hartong property since the park is public. Whoever farms the land and lives in the farmhouse will need to come up with a way to interact with the public in their proposal.
Green’s Community Development Administrator Sarah Haring said the city plans to revisit their Request For Proposal and maybe begin asking for proposals by the end of summer.
The city expects to give those interested about two months to submit proposals and then the city will take a few months to review them. Last time the city received 11 proposals for the property.
"Anyone who goes in the Hartong property says wouldn't it be cool to live there," Neugebauer said.
He thanked City Council for their support of approving funding to maintain the structures.
The Summit County Sheriff's Office also has a post with their horses there and Haring said it would be up to whoever is selected for the property to decidd if they wanted the horses to remain.