CUYAHOGA FALLS: It required a big deed to mark the big deal.
Officials on Monday signed a ceremonial poster-sized deed to mark the transfer of 578 undeveloped acres from Blossom Music Center to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
More than a 100 people crowded into the rustic lodge at Sarah’s Vineyard to celebrate the land purchase, which closes the deal that involved the National Park Service, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation group.
The deal was especially sweet for Trust for Public Land staffer David Vasarhelyi, who was a ranger for 10 years in the Cuyahoga Valley park before joining the trust’s Cleveland office six years ago and completing the agreement.
It was a deal that took six years and $9.247 million in federal funds to complete.
The purchase eliminates the threat of the Blossom property becoming the site of new suburban housing. That was the No. 1 development threat to the 33,000-acre federal park between Akron and Cleveland.
The Blossom acreage is one of the largest remaining forested tracts in the Cuyahoga Valley and was attractive to the park service.
The deal will provide an unbroken forested tract of 5,000 acres at the southern edge of the federal park, protecting streams and wildlife.
Stan Austin, superintendent of the federal park, called the agreement “very, very special.”
Gary Hanson, executive director of the Cleveland-based Musical Arts Association, the parent group of the Cleveland Orchestra, called the pact “a wonderful transaction.”
U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township, hailed the sale as “a joyous occasion.”
The deal drew strong bipartisan support from Ohio’s congressional delegation in recent years — from former U.S. Sen. George Voinovich and former U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette and Sutton.
The money for the sales came from the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund from offshore oil leases.
In May, the parties announced the purchase of 344.45 acres for $5,286,220.
In March, the park service and Trust for Public Land completed the purchase of 233.47 acres at Blossom for $3,960,780.
The Musical Arts Association had purchased 776 acres in 1966 to create Blossom Music Center off West Steels Corners Road. It is the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra and a popular venue for summer concerts.
The group will retain 198.22 acres at Blossom for concerts and parking.
In addition, the Kent State University Foundation maintains 84 acres for its Porthouse Theatre next to Blossom.
The musical arts group decided to sell the excess Blossom land because of money problems in recent years. The sale was broken into two tracts in case problems arose getting federal funds.
The association and the park service announced details of the first phase of the sale in July 2008.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.