Thomas Trock is a biologist for the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Service, and he said his career choice can be directly tied to a 40-acre piece of property north of Everett East Road and east of South Albright McKay Road in Brookfield.
Trock speaks of the property as a magical place that has historical significance beyond what it means to his family.
Trumbull County Metroparks is trying to open up that magic to a much wider group of visitors by acquiring the property from Trock and his wife, Jennifer, and opening it to the public.
Metroparks Executive Director Zachary Svette said he hopes to close in August or September on a grant from the Clean Ohio Fund to buy what is being called the Trock Forest Nature Preserve. The densely wooded, rectangular parcel has two streams running through it, one almost cutting the property in half. The property supports a bald eagle’s nest and 67 different species of lichen, one of which was “previously unknown to science,” according to Metroparks.
Lichen are “ecologically sensitive to pollutants,” and the presence of such a diverse roster “is indicative of clean air,” Metroparks said.
The property is appraised at $267,851, and Metroparks proposes that the Clean Ohio Fund provide $183,000 toward the purchase price. The grant requires a local match; the Trocks have agreed to donate the remaining portion of the purchase price to Metroparks, Svette said.
Metroparks has unambitious plans for the property. Its initial desire would be to put in a gravel parking lot so people can park and explore the property. It’s not likely that would be done this year, Svette said.
“We do have conceptual plans to put in a few trails and such, but that’s all funding contingent,” he said.
In an email, Trock said he grew up in Hubbard Township, across Everett East Road from the Trock Forest property.
“My parents – Walter and Clara Trock – purchased the land from John and Mary Krolopp in the spring of 1969,” Trock said. “I was 12 years old at the time. The Krolopps raised ponies on most of the land. I remember gathering up the tall green grass from the ditch with my sister and feeding it to the ponies as they stretched across the fence toward us. Once in a while the ponies would get out, and my family would help Mr. Krolopp gather them back and repair the downed fence. I still remember one cold winter day when my dad lost one of his shoes in the deep snow as we were rounding up the escapees.”
The land still shows signs from when “some type of rail car carried coal across the property in bygone days,” he said. “You can still see coal on the ground there, along with indentations in the soil where the old railroad ties were before they decomposed. I’d guess these are remnants of the coal mining done in that area in the late 1800s.”
“My father and mother loved this land very much,” Trock said. “My father worked for Republic Steel in Youngstown. In the evenings, and on many weekends, he would spend time walking the woods or farming the land. We had a big garden, and on any given Saturday in the summer, that’s where I would most likely find him. He used to buy lots of 500 trees from the state, (ODNR, I think), and he, along with my siblings and me, spent spring days planting them around the farm.”
Many of the trees were destroyed in a series of arson fires in the ’70s, “but some of the eastern white pine survived, and can still be seen growing on the land today,” Trock said.
The property was a playground for Trock, who said he spent many days exploring the land, often with Gary Coursen, the former news director for WKBN. They would flip rocks to catch crayfish and salamanders, climb trees, swing on grape vines “out over the creek,” and shoot BB guns and arrows, he said.
“I remember the neighbors were all very friendly and kind,” Trock said.
The Trocks built a split-rail corral for his sister’s horses – “Some evidence of the fence remains today” – and erected goal posts for football games, Trock said. They also played baseball there.
“Looking back, it was perhaps the best place in the world for me to grow up,” he said.
Trock and his wife bought the property about a year ago from his siblings.
“We wanted to use it in a way which would honor my mother and father,” Trock said. “That is why we are working with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and with Trumbull County Metroparks. It is our sincere hope that converting this private land into a forest nature preserve will somehow allow all who visit there a chance to catch a special glimpse of God’s creation as my parents saw it.”