In the spring of 2014, Deborah (Gries) Zawislan contacted Tinker’s Creek Watershed Partners (TCWP) about a property that her family inherited with a vision of transforming it into a protected greenspace, “Lorry’s Woods,” in honor of their mother. The Gries property consisted of 3.65 acres on Bear Creek, a tributary creek that begins in Highland Hills and meets the main stream of Tinker’s Creek, which is the largest tributary of the Cuyahoga River, within the Bedford Reservation.
At the time the Gries family inherited the property, it included their family home, a large cinder garage that was used by their father’s construction business, and two rental properties, all built by their father in the fifties and sixties. Unfortunately, the heating, electrical and septic systems were out of date, which posed a major barrier to selling any of the properties. “Donating the land is important to my brothers and me because we all have memories of growing up in the woods on the property,” said Deborah.
Babette Gowda, at TCWP began to work with Deborah to transform the property into a protected greenspace. Since TCWP does not hold land, they reached out to West Creek Conservancy and asked it to partner on the project. Babette first reviewed the property through participating in an Ohio EPA assessment of the health of the stream, which concluded that the stream was in relatively good condition but did not have proper flood plain access because of the buildings on the property.
With the cooperation of the City of Bedford, the Cuyahoga Land Bank was asked to help bring the property back to its natural state. The Gries family donated the property to the Cuyahoga Land Bank which used Cuyahoga County Demolition Program Funds to remove the buildings. “This area does not have a lot of undeveloped water access so it’s really exciting to be a part of a project that brings back the beauty of the creek for everyone to enjoy,” said Gus Frangos, Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel. With the demolition complete, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has gifted the property to West Creek Conservancy, which will hold it in perpetuity as protected land, actively maintaining the portion visible from the road. The Gries property is now a flourishing green space for the public to enjoy.