|COOPERATIVE CONSERVATION CASE STUDY|
|Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Initiative |
|Location: Midwest/Northern High Plains |
|Project Summary: Partnership is conserving living farms in harmony with National Park Service cultural and land stewardship values, and managing farms via private leases. |
|Locally grown produce, fresh flowers, and other foods are available at the Countryside Farmer’s Market. (Photo by HDA 2005)|
Resource ChallengeThe 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) was established to preserve the historic and scenic values of the Cuyahoga Valley. It includes 30 historic farmsteads and about 1,200 acres of historically farmed lands. It was not desirable—or ﬁnancially feasible—for the USDI National Park Service (NPS) to preserve these historic farm properties as a “museum.” After grappling with this problem unsuccessfully for two decades, and witnessing the deterioration of many of the vacant farms, CVNP conceived of and implemented a new partnership: The Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Initiative. They created a new non-proﬁt partner, the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, to bring sustainable farming expertise, external funding, and management capacity to the NPS. Their plan was to competitively recruit private individuals to lease and manage historic farm properties from the NPS.
Examples of Key Partners
CVNP, Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, private farm lessees, Heritage Farms, the Village of Peninsula, the City of Akron, University Park Alliance, The Akron Beacon Journal, USDI National Park Service, and others.
Results and Accomplishments
The Countryside Initiative has established long-term leases with private individuals on three of the Park’s historic farms. Working closely with the NPS and Countryside Conservancy staff, lessees have invested several hundred thousand dollars of private funds into capital improvements and sustainable farm operations, which are conducted in a manner consistent with resource stewardship in a National Park setting. This level of commitment is possible because of 60-year leases, which give lessees the incentive to make long-term land stewardship and capital improvements. Besides the value of private investment, the NPS receives fair market value rent on both the residence and farm income from these properties, turning public liabilities into revenue-generating assets, while at the same time preserving an important cultural landscape in a creative, cost-effective manner. In 2005, four more farm properties will be leased, with the ultimate goal of 25-30 properties managed through this program.
The Countryside Initiative has also been integrated into CVNP’s interpretive programming, affording opportunities to establish dialogue with the public on sustainability topics. In October 2004, the Superintendent of CVNP was awarded the National Park Service Director’s Appleman-Judd Award for Cultural Resources Management for the CVNP Countryside Initiative Program.