For years, sheep grazed on a small, historic farm in the city of Medina, next to the Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital. They’ve been absent now for a couple of years. But sheep and other livestock may return to the farm soon.
The Medina County Park District announced May 19 it is taking over managing the farm. The previous owners, Ross Trump and Edson Brown, wrote in their wills that they wanted it to be preserved as open space, as a working farm and as a place for education and history. Now, with the park district and other local nonprofits, like the Medina County Historical Society, working together, it will be.
“This is a very visible, historic property that is worth preserving,” said Nate Eppink, director of the Medina County Park District. “It allows us to maybe reach people differently than we otherwise would.”
The 17-acre property on State Route 18 will be owned by the nonprofit Friends of Medina County Parks, and managed by the park district. Other groups will hold educational programs or offer historical displays there.
“They were quite clear in their will what they wanted to happen to the property, and the park district is a perfect fit,” said Joann King, a member of the historical society.
The farm’s history goes a long way back. In 1874, a brick Victorian house was built on the property. Brown and Trump bought it in 1970. It was in rough shape then, and they spent years fixing it up. Trump styled the house much the way an 1890s farmhouse would have looked, said Brian Feron, president of the Medina County Historical Society.
“It was just a neat house that they brought back from the state of disrepair it was in back in the ’70s,” he added.
Trump and Brown were avid, well-known antique dealers. They tended to lean towards Victorian items and local history, Feron said, but also collected some unusual items, be it clothing, dolls, farm equipment or other types of items.
“I think it was whatever kind of caught their eye,” he said.
In the 1950s and ’60s, Trump wrote articles on antiques and collectibles for a local bank’s bank note booklets. They also donated a lot of items to the Medina County Historical Society over the years. Feron said Trump would sometimes just leave a box of items on the porch, with “From Ross” written on it.
“He was looked upon as a very good source for antiques, valuations and so on,” Feron added. “You could just see he knew what he was talking about.”
King said when she started working with the historical society in 1976, she was responsible for cataloging everything in the museum. She was new to it, and wasn’t sure what everything was. Trump helped her identify items that she didn’t recognize.
“He was really noted nationally for his expertise,” King said. “He and Ed had a tremendous success in that line.”
Just like they were interested in preserving antiques and history, they wanted to preserve the land they lived on. In 2004, they put the property under a conservation easement with the Medina Summit Land Conservancy, one of the land trusts that later merged to form the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.
The easement requires the property to be kept as open farmland, and limits future development to just the residential part of the farm, where the buildings are.
Trump and Brown kept sheep on the farm because they liked rural settings, and they got the conservation easement as soon as they could to protect it, King said. Since the farm is next to the hospital, it could have easily been developed or absorbed into the hospital grounds.
“They did what they could to prevent that,” she said.
In their wills, Brown and Trump expressed that they wanted the property to be preserved as a working farm, and to be used as a museum and historical site, for cultural, aesthetic and educational purposes.
The trustees in charge of the estate after Brown and Trump passed away reached out to several nonprofits in the area in January. That’s when groups including the park district and the historical society met to discuss how the property could be handled.
“What we felt was, no one group could possibly do everything they requested,” Feron said.
So Eppink wrote a proposal for the property to be owned by the friends of the park, a nonprofit, managed by the park district and used by multiple nonprofit organizations around the county for programs and displays. The trustees accepted the proposal.
The park district, the friends of the park and other organizations are still finalizing the details of exactly how the property will be used. Eppink has been talking with a local farmer and teacher about grazing sheep on the farm and running educational programs about how the property was once used.
The historical society may use part of the brick Victorian house as a display space for some of their collection. Some other local nonprofits may use the property’s buildings as places for meeting or holding programs.
One of the buildings on the property is designed to look older, but was built less than 25 years ago. The park district and the Medina County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Board are discussing using that house as recovery housing. Eppink noted people staying in recovery housing there could also help manage the farm.
One certainty is that the farm will not be open daily the same way a typical park would be, and would instead only be open to the public for specific events or programs. The conservation easement prohibits trails, and the property has to be maintained as a farm.
But while it’s a little different than most of the park district’s other properties, it still gives the district ways to engage with the community and to help preserve open space. The conservation easement offers another layer of protection for that preservation, Eppink said. A lot of people in the community drive past the property often and remember seeing sheep there in the past.
“There are thousands of eyeballs that pass through here every day,” Eppink said. “It’s a visual gateway to the city.”
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