Rating the Suburbs 2012: For the Nature Lover

Filled with affordable homes and a thriving downtown area, the city adds nature to its list of amenities.


At first glance, Willoughby may not seem like a haven for hikers, bird-watchers and nature lovers. While the bustling community of more than 22,000 has seen plenty of business and residential growth in recent years, the new 172-acre Gulley Brook Park has a decidedly noncommercial flavor.

Dedicated last August, the park preserves and protects valleys, streams, wetlands and forest areas that were once inhabited by Native Americans.

Through the efforts of a determined group of naturalists, headed by city residents Joe Bole, Joe Pedone, Dale Cook and Gretta Pallister, the Willoughby Area Conservancy began what would prove to be an 8-year quest culminating in Gulley Brook, now an official member of the Lake Metroparks. The project also got a boost from U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette, who helped obtain state and federal funding.

"They were all nature lovers," says Sue Bole, 75, whose husband died before he could see his vision realized. "They knew this park was important, because it was really the last unspoiled stretch of land in the area."

The tributaries and ravines of Gulley Brook drew the attention of Northeast Ohio naturalists as far back as 1915. Today, the park is less than a 10-minute drive from downtown's historic Erie Street, a hub of local restaurants and shops. The land, which now makes up the new park, was once considered for a high-rise apartment complex.

Gulley Brook, bordered by Interstate 90 and routes 84 and 174, may be just minutes from the thriving stores and restaurants of downtown Willoughby, but its scenic and winding trails are a welcome respite to the daily grind.

"It's a little jewel with beautiful land and wildlife," says Bole. "It's a place to go and see what Willoughby was like before it became a bigger city."

Neighborhood Hot Spot

"This area is within walking distance of the new Gulley Brook Park walk-path. The proximity to downtown Willoughby is important with a lot of wonderful shopping and booming restaurants," says Howard Hanna's Lori Pecjak of the Harlow Drive, Arlington Drive and Shankland Road neighborhood in Willoughby. "For commuters, it is very accessible to state Route 2 and I-90."

What You Get

Harlow Drive

Asking price: $179,900

Selling price: $154,000

Square feet: 2,236

No. of bedrooms: 4

No. of bathrooms: 2

Time on the market: 51 days

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