by Al Penko. Growing up on Wallings Road in Broadview Heights near the North Royalton border in the 1940s and 1950s most of the farms had been sold or at least not worked. New building was going on along the main roads such as Wallings, State and Sprague with farmers selling pieces of their property in long narrow strips. Back land consisted of abandoned fields, beginning to grow up with brush, trees and creeks. Into these hundreds of acres my friends and I would tramp the fields and woods, playing in the creeks exploring and having all sorts of make-believe adventures. We were veritable Tom Sawyers. Part of this play was identification of species of trees, plants and flowers. I vividly remember the first time I saw a beautiful white flower, the trillium, in the woods. Later I went to the library to find out what it was named.
Then one morning in the mid 1950s, I was awakened by the sound of a bulldozer clearing a field next to my house. Looking out the window was this machine knocking down trees and stripping the earth of all vegetation, preparing the land for new houses and expansive development. This began the construction of suburbia with erection of houses, paving new streets, cutting down trees and tiling creeks. My playground was being destroyed.
In 1970, my wife and I bought a house on Ridge Road near the headwaters of Big Creek. Lived there 39 years on the site of an old dairy farm. I loved that house and property along with the trees, bushes, flowers and grasses. Had a garden and spent my free time identifying plants and watching the passing of the seasons. Animal life was abundant including birds, squirrels, chipmunks, opossums, raccoon, ground hogs, deer, fox and coyotes. Eventually, as age caught up with me, I had to move to a place that was easier to get around.
West Creek Preservation Committee was formed to preserve lands along West Creek and later began to protect land outside West Creek, conserving the Busch property on Ridge Road in Parma about one and a half miles north of my house. Looking at a map of the area, I noticed that most of Big Creek between my property and the Busch property was not developed. This is when I decided to donate my property in the hopes that that stretch of Big Creek could be preserved for future generations. Maybe in the future some Tom Sawyers and Becky Thachers could have adventures exploring and playing in the creek as I did.