Aurora -- The city plans to open up the Spring Hill Farm property to the public.

Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said one of her goals is "to better use city-owned property and open it to the public where feasible."

"Council has been interested in Spring Hill," she said. "There are no real trails there yet, but we intend to start with a trail around the lake."

The Spring Hill land is on the north side of East Pioneer Trail near the Mantua Township border and northeast of Sunny Lake.

The mayor said the 2014 city budget includes $15,000 for improvements at the farm, including putting in a path.

Parks-Recreation Director Jim Kraus said the lake is about 20 acres. He said the city hopes to have the park open this summer, but no specific date has been set.

"People do hunt out there," Kraus said. "It is permitted."

City Councilman John Kudley, president of the Aurora Historical Society, said there is not a name for the house at Spring Hill Farm.

"The property was that of Ebenezer Sheldon, the first settler in Aurora," Kudley said. "While it is a century home, it is not the original house on the property; it is the third. The original Sheldon cabin was across the street from the property."

Kraus said, "We refer to the structures on the Spring Hill Farm property as the main house, the deed building and the barn."

Womer Benjamin said the parcel was not open previously because "there are buildings which we had to secure.

"ALSO, WE ARE gradually evaluating what we can and should do with the property the city owns. There are various restrictions, environmental and otherwise, on much of the property, including Spring Hill."

She said there is a locked gate to the property and the buildings are locked.

Kraus said he recently toured the property, along with Womer Benjamin and Service Director John Trew.

"She is interested in exploring uses for the property, in addition to the path at the lake," Kraus said.

Kraus said the house can be used for governmental or non-profit use if the city decides to go in that direction.

"The next step is, if you want to use it [for more than that], it has to be [handicapped accessible]," Kraus said. "That's the same with any house, whether it's Margaret Harmon's or Harold Hartman's. If you use them for commercial use, which could be for meetings, club get-togethers or those kind of things, you have to determine [if those upgrades are necessary]."

Kraus said while the "inside of the house is good, the outside needs some work."

"We bid it two years ago," Kraus said. "The bid came back at about $117,000 to waterproof the foundation, scrape and paint [the house] and replace the siding. It was exterior work for the most part. That was a big [dollar] number that, at the time, Council didn't want to spend for no clear use."


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Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC