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Hartman fields, arboretum projects roll into high gear in Aurora

By KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published: June 7, 2017 1:00 AM
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AURORA -- Phase I of the city's recreational development of the former Hartman property on Townline Road is moving forward after City Council recently approved a $289,123 contract with King Excavating of Willoughby.

Phase I includes a gravel parking lot on the west side of Townline Road, plus grading and seeding of three athletic fields.

When Council approved the contract at its May 22 meeting, Parks-Recreation Director Jim Kraus noted King's bid was considerably under the engineering consultant's estimate of $475,000.

Nine firms submitted bids for the project, which were opened May 17, with six of the bids exceeding $400,000, one coming in at $336,442 and two on the lower side of $300,000.

Kraus said King has 120 days from the time the contract is finalized to complete the work, and officials are hopeful the fields will be ready for use in spring 2018.

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Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said no wetlands on the property will be impacted by the project.

When Aurora resident George Mazzaro questioned the need for the new fields at Council's May 22 session, Womer Benjamin said there are plans to phase out some existing fields that are on school district property, but are used by the city.

The mayor explained that an ad-hoc recreation committee, which met for several months a couple of years ago, listed the Hartman athletic fields as its highest immediate priority.

Councilman Jim Vaca said he talked to a couple of residents on the Mantua side of Townline Road who were concerned that the new fields could create drainage issues, and he suggested the city send them letters to dispel their concerns.

City Service Director John Trew said an engineering review found that no drainage problems should arise, but he noted residents of either Aurora or Mantua can view documents at Town Hall if they still have concerns.

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Womer Benjamin pointed out the city continues to work on other pieces of the Hartman property development, including a tree arboretum and a cross country path.

When the development of the property was first considered a couple of years ago, officials estimated that the total cost would be about $1.4 million, with work to be done in phases. The city has received $50,000 in grant money from the state for the tree arboretum, with the total cost expected to be $98,500.

For the city to use the grant money, Kraus said the tree arboretum must be completed by the end of 2017.

The miniature arboretum will consist of an estimated 250 species of trees to be planted on both sides of a 0.75--mile path situated on 7 acres at the north end of the Hartman farm.

Since October 2016, the parks and recreation department staff has been working on the path and sites where trees are being planted.

Road grindings are being laid and landscape materials from the closed Geauga Lake and Wildwater Kingdom parks have been gathered and will be installed after the path is completed.

A couple of months ago, city arborist Ben Askren said the goal of the project is to have the trees planted in sequence based on when they appeared on earth -- by family -- using fossil records for the pine trees (Gymnosperms) and Angiosperm Phylogeny Group IV system (APG IV), a molecular based system of plant taxonomy, for the flowering trees.

Native trees species, as well as trees from all over the world, will be planted, with the most primitive family in the arboretum being Ginkgoaceae, which are represented by ginkgo biloba.

There will be five of what are called "living fossils," including ginkgo, which are trees that have leaves and or fruits exactly the same as their ancestors from millions of years ago.

The living fossil trees are Monkey Puzzle, Araucaria araucana, Wollemia pine, Wollemia noblis, Queensland Kauri pine, Agathis robusta and dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyotostrboides).

The earliest examples of broad leaf trees are Henry Anisa, Illicium henri and members of the magnolia family.

Officials have said eventually there will be signage detailing each family's traits, how many species are represented around the world, habitat, landscape value and other pertinent information.

Askren said all trees will be inventoried, using GIS/GPS technology, so that in the near future an application for cell phones and tablets can be downloaded, and information on each tree can be read or listened to by standing in front of the tree and aiming the phone at it.

Askren has been researching the plant families and has reached out to scientists from prominent universities and arboretums across the United States for expertise and input.

Kraus said the next phase of the project includes two more athletic fields, four baseball/softball fields, a large parking and a retention basin. Cross country course work is likely to start this year and extend into 2018, and the access drive will eventually be expanded for arboretum visitors and cross country course users.

Email: klahmers@recofdpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189


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