My Ohio: Schoepfle Garden designed for leisurely walks

Schoepfle Garden was designed for leisurely walks

BIRMINGHAM, Ohio - If your job or household activities jangle your nerves to the point where you are about to scream, this story is for you. If it is LOUD that you want, you will not find it here. In this story, you will only find a softness to settle your nerves and make you feel as if you are in a spa. Ah! You feel better already, don't you, my friend?

We are in the Schoepfle Garden of the Lorain County Metro Parks system. The garden is in the unincorporated community of Birmingham, about eight miles south of Vermilion, in Lorain County.  Schoepfle Garden was begun by Otto Schoepfle (pronounced "Sheff-lee"), who donated his 70 acres and his house to the Lorain County Metro Parks in 1969.

The garden is exquisite in its beauty. The array of flowers bend in the gentle breeze of late summer. Of course, autumn is in the air, and the flowers and plants have begun to reflect the changing seasons. Schoepfle was a banker who later became the chief executive officer of the Chronicle Telegram newspaper in Elyria.

"Half of the money he ever earned in his life, he poured into his garden," said Matt Kocsis, the garden's senior naturalist. 

Kocsis walks among the acres of flowers, trees and shrubs, many of which Schoepfle planted. Though he died in 1992, Schoepfle's handprint is still on the garden, which is nestled against the Vermilion River that snakes its way toward Lake Erie.

The garden is open to the public, which streams through the quiet walkways between the various plants. Penny Roberts of Rocky River walked among the flowers as she held to one of nature's offerings she found on the ground.

"I think it's a black walnut," she said, offering the item to the nose of anyone who would take in its aroma.

"If you rub it, the smell has a citrus odor," she said, here eyes wide and her lips parting with a smile.

Dan Pryor said it was relaxing to walk through Schoepfle.

"It's a great place to come and exercise and take an evening walk after dinner," he said.

Pryor is a contractor who takes on construction jobs in the area. He surveyed a set of windows he repaired in one of the buildings on the garden. He smiled at them saying his work has held up well.

Schoepfle bought the house in which he lived and eight surrounding acres in 1936. He loved the place so much, he continued to buy land beyond his original property line, extending his holdings. 

"He called it the garden that grew," said Kocsis, noting whenever Schoepfle bought more land, he turned it into more garden.

A section of the garden is designed for children. A working carousel is one of is centerpieces. Children can ride ponies while carousel music lifts through the air while they "ride the range" on a spirited pony. Nearby is a long tube through which a youngster can crawl. Another part of that area is a large tube, shaped like a musical flute though which a youngster can pull himself through. 

One of the largest parts of Shoepfle Garden is a dawn redwood tree, once thought extinct. In 1959, Schoeple heard of seedlings of the trees found in China. He went there and brought back to Erie County two seedlings, which he planted. One of them survived. It stretches to the sky -- its branches waving in the breezes which sweep through. Its trunk is strong, pulling strength from the earth in which Schoepfle planted the dawn redwood.

Schoepfle left everything to the Lorain County Metro Parks. He also left money to continue maintaining the garden. 

You will find it at 11106 Market St. (Ohio Route 113) in Birmingham, a small community of fewer than 50 residents in Erie County. However, the visitors who walk through the garden and the Schoepfle house, which is kept as it is the 1950s or 1960s, come by the thousands. It is as beautiful a walk as you will ever have. 

Overhead, a bald eagle may circle with its wings outstretched as it rides the rising thermal currents lifting from the earth. There is a babble of a man-made fountain in the children's area. There are the constant chirpings of the birds which live in the garden. Nearby is the Vermilion River, never ceasing its flow northward where it will empty into the broad-chested Lake Erie.  

Schoepfle's "garden that grew" is a wonderful place where the accent is on beauty, tranquility, and life where nature unfolds using its own calendar and its own clock.

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