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MetroParks, resident locked in dispute

Andy Ouriel • Oct 12, 2013 at 6:10 PM

Park commissioners authorized locking up a shed packed with hunting equipment at the Joseph Steinen Wildlife Area off Cleveland Road. Erie MetroParks owns the property and previously leased shed space and land to the West Huron Youth Club.

Club members, along with about 15 children, discovered park officials changed the shed’s locks when showing up to hunt on a recent weekend. The equipment — used for archery, shooting and fishing — belongs to the West Huron Youth Club.

“They are wrong,” said East Perkins Avenue resident Gil Steinen, who oversees club activities.

In 2004, Steinen sold the 376 acres for $2.25 million to Erie MetroParks.

Steinen is entangled in his second lawsuit with Erie MetroParks, alleging park employees abused a land agreement involving the wildlife area. In fall 2010, the park district settled a previous land dispute brought upon by Steinen in an agreement discussed in an Erie County courtroom.

“I don’t know what their motivation is,” Steinen said. “It appalls me that they’re taking this out on the youth when their vengeance should be with me.”

District officials voided the lease after youth club members supposedly violated rules. Erie MetroParks commissioner Kurt Landefeld and executive director Amy Bowman-Moore said Steinen and club members breached a contract by:

• Announcing a hunt would occur between September and March, without receiving written consent.

• Attempting to form a committee to combat the district.

• Not responding to numerous requests to talk about these problems.

“After the requested deadline (to talk) had passed, we voted to terminate the lease and instructed Amy to change the lock on the building,” Landefeld said. “We are not denying the West Huron Youth Club its right to exist or to conduct its activities. It just cannot do so in our building or on our property.”

Steinen said he’ll continue to fight Erie MetroParks and expose their “misdeeds.”

“How could we possibly violate the lease?” Steinen said. “It’s retaliation for us informing the public on their mismanagement and expenditures of tax dollars.”

Steinen is referring to MetroParks spending about $1.2 million in tax dollars on various lawsuits since 1995.

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