Twinsburg becomes last community to join Summit Metro Parks

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Hannah Kemmerling, 12, and Chloe Gibson, 12, at an Earth Day scavenger hunt at Liberty Park in April 2019. The city of Twinsburg, which owns about a third of the area, has been annexed into the Summit Metro Parks taxing district, a move that was put on hold for almost 10 years after the city bought the land and put the parks district in charge of managing the property.

TWINSBURG – The city of Twinsburg is now officially part of the Summit Metro Parks taxing district.

Stephanie Walton, chief of marketing and communications for the Metro Parks, said that the annexation was finalized Nov. 3 by the Summit County Probate Court following an Oct. 22 public hearing.

"Liberty Park continues to be a partnership park, with ownership split amongst Summit Metro Parks, the city of Twinsburg and the state of Ohio," Walton said. "Summit Metro Parks manages most of the park’s land." 

The annexation process, which required officials with the Summit Metro Parks to obtain 50 resident signatures, was not subject to a vote by Twinsburg residents, and the 2 mills of tax revenue from Twinsburg residents would go for Metro Parks operations.

According to Metro Parks finance chief Dale Forbean, the 2 mills would cost a property owner about $61 a year per $100,000 of valuation.

Lisa M. King, the executive director of Summit Metro Parks, said former city officials and the parks district agreed not to bring the city into the district until the $10 million worth of bonds to purchase the city's 900-acre part of the park were paid off so that residents would not be taxed twice.

According to Summit County Board of Elections records, the 1.68 mill, 20-year bond issue was approved by city voters 2,664 to 1,214 in November 1999. The bond issue will expire Jan. 1, 2022.

Twinsburg taxpayers will not start paying the Summit Metro Parks tax levy until Jan. 1, 2022, so the city's residents wouldn't be paying the bond issue and the tax levy at the same time, according to the court document from the Summit County Probate Court.

Under the Ohio Revised Code, any territory adjacent and contiguous to an existing park district may be annexed to a park district after the board of park commissioners receives a petition and determines the annexation should be made.

If the board determines in favor of such annexation, it shall make application to the probate court, explaining the reasons. Under state law, the judge has the authority to authorize the annexation if the judge finds it benefits the general welfare.

The city was the last community in Summit County to be brought into the park district.

According to Walton, at the time the city purchased its 900 acre part of the 3,000 acre Liberty Park, only Reminderville, Twinsburg Township and the city of Twinsburg had not been added to the county park district's taxing jurisdiction. Prior to that, the last community to be annexed was Hudson in the early 1970s.

"In the early 2000s, Reminderville and Twinsburg Township were annexed at their own request," Walton said previously. "Had there not been a partnership with the city of Twinsburg to develop Liberty Park, it's likely the city would have been annexed at that time as well."

The property is the centerpiece of a 3,000-acre stretch of parkland and preserve that extends around five miles from the northeast side of Twinsburg to the southern part of Tinkers Creek State Nature Preserve in Streetsboro.

The city's portion contains what is known as the Twinsburg Ledges, an area that features spectacular rock formations characterized by towering walls, narrow passages and caves.

Although the city owns the Twinsburg Ledges property and operates recreational facilities off Post Road, the park district has added property to the park boundaries, built a $3 million nature center and manages the undeveloped parkland under an agreement negotiated by former Mayor Kathi Procop.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com