Preservation rationale & strategy
"If you have an unique treasure, preserve it."
Currently, approximately 985 homes have been built in the 8.97 square mile area that comprises the Village (source). It is a very special community, consisting of extensive wooded hillsides, broad meadows, paddocks, historic homesteads and tranquil wetlands. Large open spaces surround well-tended homes and beautiful ravines. The Chagrin River lends other fine qualities to Village life as it winds its way through our valley.
There are 546 acres of Cleveland's Metroparks located within the Village boundaries. This parkland, Village woodlands, and the Chagrin River provide habitat for wild turkeys, bald eagles, great blue herons, coyotes, and white tail deer. Fly fishermen catch wild steelhead trout in the Chagrin River as it makes its way through the Village. The Audubon Society recognizes Gates Mills and the North Chagrin Reservation as wild bird sanctuaries.
Since its formation in 1988, the Gates Mills Land Conservancy has preserved 670 acres within the Village. Combined with the considerable green space owned by the Village and the Cleveland Metroparks, close to 15% of the Village is protected.
Today the open and natural character of the Village is threatened because Gates Mills is bordered by rapidly developing Geauga County to the east and the urban sprawl of Cuyahoga County to the West. Large parcels of open space are very attractive to developers despite zoning regulations.
Additionally, a new threat to our community is on the horizon. The Village is already home to 47 shallow fracked gas wells, and Gates Mills may sit atop vast quantities of untapped natural resources. Because advancing technologies now allow the extraction of these resources, the Village could soon be under enormous pressure to additionally industrialize residential areas within the Village, and the State of Ohio, by law, no longer allows us to protect ourselves from such an incursion. Read "The Gates Mills Land Conservancy's Policy on Oil, Gas, and Liquid Gas Extraction in the Village" here.
Our Strategic Plan identifies additional critical acres we must preserve. When we reach our objectives, more than 25% of the land within the Village will be parkland, Village-owned or land preserved as open space. We believe that this is a very realistic plan, but the clock is ticking as development pressure from our eastern and western borders increases at a relentless pace.
Our preservation strategy is designed to prevent these development pressures from harming Gates Mills. It is focused on specific sites that we believe are critical to preserving the important qualities of our Western Reserve Village. The Strategic Plan divides the village into three "preservation" corridors: 1) The Wilderness Corridor, 2) The Village Heartland Corridor, and 3) The Chagrin River Corridor. Each corridor contains its share of "critical sites." Responsibility for monitoring the current status of each site as well as developing and implementing action plans for each corridor is assigned to a specific trustee committee. These strategies and action plans are detailed in our overall Strategic Plan that is updated on an annual basis.
The Wilderness Corridor
The Wilderness Corridor is the area of Gates Mills north of Mayfield Road stretching west from County Line Road across the Chagrin River valley to the western border of the village. As noted, 546 acres of this corridor are preserved as part of the North Chagrin Reservation. Wooded hillsides, two magnificent ravines, a stream holding native trout, meadows and beautiful mature forests characterize the balance of this land.
Our vision for this corridor is to preserve enough of its land to control development along its eastern border and to preserve its streams, woodlots and ravines thereby maintaining the wilderness character of the corridor for future generations.
The GMLC has categorized more than 150 acres in this corridor as critical and has targeted them for protection through easement, gift or outright purchase. This corridor also contains a significant portion of the village's vulnerable eastern border along County Line Road. The Conservancy closely monitors the status of the land along this border and has action plans in place to be implemented when the timing indicates such actions are appropriate.
The Village Heartland Corridor
The southern half of the Village surrounds its historical center or heartland. The houses that can be observed as one strolls from the Village Hall over the "walking bridge," past Saint Christopher's Church and up Old Mill Road cover historic ground where, in 1826, Holsey Gates built the first dam on the Chagrin River to power the saw mill he built that same year. Some of the handsome Western Reserve houses you pass date from that era. Go south on Epping and Berkshire Roads and then return to the Village Center along the Chagrin River and you will see the Polo Field, paddocks, open expanses of well tended green lawns and woodlots, old stone walls and split rail fences with lovely houses set well back from the roads on tree shaded driveways.
The original vision for this corridor was to protect approximately seventy-five acres of land so as to preserve the natural woodland beauty of the area fronting on Beverly Lane. We also hope to minimize development on the land along Epping Road, keeping the vistas of wide green lawns, stone walls, and split rail fences in place for future generations.
Progress in the Heartland - The Conservancy recently completed an agreement with the Douglas Wick family that preserved 53 of those acres including the wetlands, meadows and piney woods along Beverly Lane between Epping Road and Chagrin River Road. This was an extraordinary cooperative effort on the part of the Gates Mills Land Conservancy and Western Reserve Land Conservancy resulting in a conservation gift of more than 25 acres of land, a conservation easement on additional acres, and the purchase of the balance.
Also recently completed was a very complex project involving: the Village of Gates Mills, the Gates Mills Improvement Society, the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club, and Village residents. It resulted in a comprehensive conservation easement on our historic ”Polo Field”. This beautiful 25-acre open space will be preserved in perpetuity.
Our continuing vision for this corridor is the preservation of its vista of green lawns stretching from the polo field south along Epping Road. The Conservancy continues to work with other property owners in this corridor, and we are hopeful that our vision for this part of the Village will be successfully fulfilled within the next few years.
The Chagrin River Corridor
This corridor's geography is essentially those properties within sight of the Chagrin River, usually bordering on it. These properties can be viewed on the maps of the Wilderness and Village Heartland Corridors so are not repeated on a separate map for this corridor. Some of the conservation issues here are unique to riverfront properties and the plan recognizes this, assigning them to a special corridor and to their own committee. For instance, there is significant annual erosion of the riverbanks, which can be the result of development activity in close proximity to these banks. Riparian setbacks are often involved or special plantings may mitigate erosion and should be considered when stewardship issues are addressed. In January 2008, an additional 5.4 acres along the east bank of the River were preserved thanks to the generosity of Jennifer Creech and Bob Calamari.
The Conservancy's vision for this corridor is to preserve the natural beauty of the land on both sides of the River and to attempt to minimize development by conservation easements and riparian setbacks. Enactment of appropriate riparian setback legislation is essential and has already been established by neighboring communities in the Chagrin River Valley.
Go to our Map of Protected Land to see the boundaries of these corridors and the properties protected within them.