Aurora is planning its first steps toward restoring the former Aurora Golf Club property.
"We're very excited about it," Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said at a recent City Council meeting. "We're still working on how the funding for the restoration will be handled. Continued maintenance of the trails is a decision for down the road.
"However, there will be some removal of bridges and some redirection of some of the trails," she said. "In addition, we are already using the maintenance building for parks and recreation storage."
Councilman Jim Vaca said he encouraged city leaders to fix the maintenance building and use "every square inch that we're entitled to. You can never have enough space."
Womer Benjamin stressed that if the city takes down any of the buildings at the site, "we are prohibited from building new ones. It would be in our best interest to save what we can and utilize it."
Councilman John Kudley said the maintenance building is sound. "It's just the roof that needs replacement," he said.
The city arrived at the restoration phase after an appeal regarding the sale of the property was dismissed with prejudice in mid-December by the state's Environmental Review Appeals Commission. Womer Benjamin previously said since the case was dismissed with prejudice, "that means it can't be filed again, so we believe it probably can't proceed."
"So from a legal perspective, I am told the city should be able to begin implementing the plans to restore the Chagrin River and to improve the pathways and connections on the property," she added.
"We will work to implement some of the improvements, including maintenance and use of the buildings, which the city is permitted to undertake (following an agreement with the Ohio EPA.)"
Six Aurora residents filed an appeal in January 2013 to the state's ERAC, claiming the Ohio EPA's granting of $4.7 million for the city to acquire the Aurora Golf Club was "unlawful and unreasonable."
Although the city can maintain the golf cart paths, it is not allowed to mow most of the land under the terms of the grant agreement, in which money would be used to restore the Aurora branch of the Chagrin River.
The Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program funding allowed the city to acquire the land, remove man-made structures, restore the river's natural flow and floodplain and protect the property forever.
The sale of the golf course property on Trails End, where residents had golfed for more than eight decades, became official Friday, when the city gained the title from Aurora Recreation LLC.
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Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC