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Medina County Park District begins work on new nature preserve

Rivendell Nature Preserve prairie.jpeg
Nate Eppink
Medina County Park District
Rivendell Nature Preserve contains fields of wildflowers, prairies and wooded areas.

The Medina County Park District is working to take the largest donation of land it's ever received and transform it into a new nature preserve within the next two years. The future property will be called Rivendell Nature Preserve.

The name Rivendell comes from J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional world Middle-earth, found in both “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Dedee O’Neil and her late husband Rory lived on the land beginning in the 1960s, and both shared a love of Tolkien’s work.

Rivendell 03 (Eppink) 2022.jpg
Nate Eppink
Medina County Park District
Rivendell Nature Preserve includes many wooded areas.

The 203-acre property located in Westfield Center and Westfield Township contains native wildflower meadows, wooded areas and a fishing pond. O’Neil hopes the nature preserve will inspire young people to get outside and take action to help the environment.

“You know if you want adults to care about the environment you have to teach kids to love the environment.”

Park director Nate Eppink said the district plans to add a parking lot, trails and a picnic shelter to the property, but that the property will remain more or less how it is.

“This will be a nature preserve, and with Medina County Park District, a nature preserve has less development, fewer amenities than a park, Eppink said. "So, we will not have ball fields here. We will really limit asphalt to the parking lot.”

Eppink said the park district has been preserving land at a rapid rate the last few years. With O'Neil's donation the park district is operating 8,300 acres.

"Because this is a rapidly developing part of Ohio, I think people, including Dedee, are excited to see land preserved and are willing to help us do that," Eppink said.

Overall, O'Neil hopes the property will help people fall in love, or fall back in love, with nature.

"I hope a whole lot of people who have never - either adults who haven't walked in the woods since they were kids, if then, and certainly a lot of these kids will get a first experience in walking in the woods," O'Neil said.

In the past, the O'Neil's welcomed elementary school classes, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops and many other children to explore the property. She's excited for more people to now get the opportunity to spend time outdoors.

Eppink said development of the Rivendell Nature Preserve will begin no later than summer 2024. He hopes the preserve will be open to the public by the end of that year.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media. A Northeast Ohio native and lifelong listener of public radio, Abigail started in public radio as a news intern at WKSU. She graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Kent State University.