This is an emotional return
In the spring of 2012, I started what would be my last public sector position. I had been hired as the Executive Director for the Metroparks Serving the Toledo Area. The interview and vetting process had taken well over three months and I had spent considerable time studying operational policies, publications, budgets, organizational charts, and property maps. My first 8 months were nothing less than an intense blur of activity and my first week was a whirlwind, but I was both humbled and excited for this new opportunity.
The Friday of that first week, I was touring the parks with Dave Zenk and trying to make as many stops as we could in one day. In my prep work, I had read about a facility referred to as the “Brookwood Cultural Center”, but there was no public space listed in any park literature, and I asked Dave to tell me about this place. He was uncomfortable with the subject and did his best to give me a quick background on the project, and he asked me if I want to go there. And of course, I did.
A property, along with a nice house and outbuilding had been donated to the park system by Virginia Belt, a popular piano instructor. Her family also bequeathed a significant endowment for the maintenance and care of the facility with the condition that the property be used to promote cultural activities. Shortly after the property had been transferred, the park administration changed and the new team had no ownership in the project and evidently had no interest in trying to develop a strategy to use the buildings and grounds in any way. A cultural arts center was seen as something well outside of the mission and services of the Metroparks.
For all intent and purpose, the house had been unused and sitting closed up for over ten years when Dave walked through on our tour that day. It was a musty, moldy mess. Both Dave and I agreed that this was completely unacceptable. He appeared to be embarrassed with the situation and I was simply dumbfounded.
The next week I ask the staff to pull all of the files on Brookwood and set about reviewing the history of the project, and while this was a great concern, it could not be a top priority. I was recommending that the Park Board pursue a new levy in 6 months and if that passed, the agency would have the financial resources to address Brookwood and a host of other significant capital projects.
Long story short, the ten-year levy passed which resulted in an additional 60 million dollars for the agency to invest in park improvements. Brookwood was one of those projects.
In addition to the physical renovations, there was also the issue of developing a use plan that would be acceptable to the family who donated the property. As I spent time reviewing the project history, I was sure that there was a way to find a way to use the facility and grounds in a manner that would be appealing to representatives of the Belt family.
Fast forward 11 years and I am thrilled to returning to Brookwood to perform for a capacity crowd. I can assure you that it will be an emotional evening for me.!
Friday, August 18, 8 p.m.
Reservations Required, Tickets are FREE or Pay What You Want
While enjoying a remarkable career in the conservation field, Steve maintained an active musical performance schedule. He started performing when he was 13-years-old and he has never stopped.
He has released three solo projects, Rivers and Trails, Arrow Creek, and most recently, Hometown Blues. This project hit 15 on the FAI folk charts for April 2022.
His songs have been described as subtle musical "arrangements with words that carry substantial weight." Many of his tunes incorporate bits of Ohio history giving his musical stories a tie to place and an organic validity. In addition to performing as a solo artist, Steve has many side projects with other musicians and musical ensembles. John Barile will be joining Steve for the evening. John is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and he is constantly performing across Ohio. This duo was a standout at the 2022 Lake Erie Folk Festival!
with special guest John Barile
Friday, August 18, 7 p.m.
*Brookwood Area is an intimate listening room experience. Advanced reservations are required. All tickets are complimentary.