Outside media coverage of Mill Creek MetroParks

Mill Creek MetroParks board approves 2018 budget

The 2018 Mill Creek MetroParks budget the park board approved this week was made with operational efficiency in mind, MetroParks Executive Director Aaron Young said.

“For 2018, our main priority is making sure that the MetroParks’ operating budget reflects our commitment to being efficient stewards of taxpayer dollars, and I think this budget does exactly that,” he said.

The board approved a budget featuring just under $11.8 million in general-fund appropriations. Last year, the budget included $12.4 million in general-fund appropriations.

Total appropriations for this year, including just under $4.7 million from the park’s replacement reserve fund and $10,000 from a law-enforcement assistance fund, are $16.4 million.

Also reduced in this year’s budget are employee wages and salaries. The MetroParks budgeted about $6 million for wages and salaries this year, compared with about $6.3 million in the 2016 budget and $6.2 million in the 2017 budget.

“Salaries and wages were reduced by 3 percent as compared to 2017. That’s even after a two percent board-approved increase for all employees,” Young said, referring to raises granted in 2016.

Young said that was achieved by measures such as keeping a closer eye on employees’ hours.

He said the MetroParks also sought to trim spending in other areas, such as reducing the vehicle fleet from more than 80 in 2015 to about 63 today.

“We are continuing to evaluate everything from our fleet to our equipment to salaries and wages,” he said.

On the revenue side, the 2018 general-fund budget is similar to last year’s, with just under $7.8 million in general property tax revenue and total general-fund revenue of just under $10.3 million, not taking into account carry-over funds.

Another focus of the 2018 budget is capital improvements. An additional 0.25-mill for capital improvements, which the park began receiving last year after voters approved it in 2015, brings in slightly more than $1 million per year for the 15-year levy cycle. The park has pledged to invest $29 million in capital improvements over that period.

“We’re looking to spend nearly $5.8 million on capital improvements [this year],” Young said, noting a significant portion of that amount will be funded by third-party dollars such as grants and donations.

For example, on the MetroParks’ project list this year is right-of-way acquisition, design and engineering, and construction of the final phase of the MetroParks Bikeway. Much of that project is covered by grant money, including 80 percent of the estimated $3.5 million construction cost.

Also budgeted this year are annual improvements such as parking lot and trail maintenance; completion of a project to restore the wheel at Lanterman’s Mill; and improvements at numerous sites including the Lake Newport boat launch, Fellows Riverside Gardens, the north golf course, Scholl and Wick recreation areas, Mill Creek Wildlife Sanctuary and others.

“We have a lot of projects that should, and hopefully will, provide park visitors with the level of excitement we’ve been talking about for some time now,” Young said.

“We’re pleased with where we’re headed,” he added. “It’s an exciting time for the MetroParks.”

View the full article at vindy.com

Mill Creek MetroParks improvement project announced

Mill Creek MetroParks is asking for public comment for an upcoming improvement project. 

A rehabilitation project was proposed to resurface 1.53 miles of existing asphalt concrete.on the southern section of West Newport Dr. from Sheban Dr. to Hampton Dr. 

West Newport Dr. is located in the Historic District of Mill Creek Park, stretching from Sheban Drive to Canfield Road (Route 62). 

Additional improvements include the restoration of aggregate roadway shoulders and the reapplication of pavement markings. 
The transportation improvement is scheduled for construction in the summer of 2018. 

The estimated construction cost is about $289,190 with $126,933 being funded through ODOT’s Park District Road Improvement Fund.  

During project construction, West Newport Dr. will remain open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic at all times, but will be closed to all vehicular traffic from Sheban Dr. to Hampton Dr.  

A detour route will be provided. 

Construction, lane restriction, roadway closure and detour information will be posted along West Newport Dr. and on the Mill Creek MetroParks website before the construction begins.  

Parking lots for the Newport Wetlands and the West Newport Drive Picnic Area will be closed to vehicular traffic.

However, these facilities will remain open and will be accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists at all times during project construction. 
To ensure the proposed project is viable and successful, Mill Creek Metro Parks is seeking comments from the public about the social, environmental, and economic impacts of this proposed project. 

Environmental impacts include those involving archeological, architectural and ecological resources, regulated materials and the general location of the project. 

Any comments you may have regarding the environmental and/or the proposed project may be submitted by February 9, 2018.

View the full article at wfmj.com

While Lanterman’s Mill freezes, animals at Mill Creek remain active

While most of us would rather curl up inside and watch Netflix instead of braving the bitter cold, naturalists at Mill Creek Park say some plants and animals actually thrive in this weather.

“The park is used to this. It’s natural for it to drop this low,” Cody Stoll said. “A lot of the animals, you’ll see, are used to the weather, they’ll adapt to this. Their fur might get a little thicker and they create a wax coating to keep them from getting too wet.”

Friday afternoon, turkeys ate outside of the Ford Nature Center. One of the ways the birds keep warm is by lifting one leg to attract more heat to their core.

“Especially here, a lot of the birds, you can see just how active they are,” Nick Parich said.

Naturalists are careful to make sure the birds have plenty to eat.

“We’re keeping the bird feeders full,” Stoll said.

As far as plants, there’s something in your garden that likes the chilly weather.

“If you’re a garlic planter, then the more frost, the better for the garlic,” Stoll said.

A lot of trees, including hemlocks and pines, are built for these temperatures.

“They actually produce a sap that’ll help keep them warm,” Parich said.

Throughout the park, nature is responding to the single-digit temperatures. From Lanterman’s Mill to all of Mill Creek’s lakes, the ice and snow are creating a winter wonderland that is incredible to see.

The Mill is one of the most picturesque sights in Youngstown during the winter. Large icicles have now formed on rocks near the waterfall. Even some of the fall itself has frozen but it’ll take much colder temperatures to stop all of the water from running.

“Underneath is all magma. It’s really hot to keep it melted, so it’s keeping the rocks on the crest hot as well,” Stoll said. “Since they’re hot, the water that’s running across those rocks — even though the water is cold to us — it’s still relatively warm.”

You can still see breaks in the ice at the Mill but the same can’t be said for Lake Glacier. It’s living up to its name because it was a large sheet of ice on Friday.

Both Parich and Stoll say this is one of the best times to be at the park, especially if you like hiking. It’s peaceful and not a lot of people are on the trails.

View the full article at wkbn.com

Nearly two dozen apply to be Mill Creek Park Commissioners

A selection committee must once again fill two spots on the Mill Creek MetroParks Board of Commissioners. But they’ll have nearly two dozen applicants to choose from. 

Thursday afternoon marked the deadline for those interested in becoming a park commissioner. 

As of 5 p.m., twenty-two applications had been accepted. 

The applicants are all Valley residents, some with nearly 70 years experience living in the area. 

The candidates have experience in public offices ranging from a trustee, school board members, and more. 

Several applicants are veterans of the armed forces, and some even boast of experience working for the park system. 

The names will now be forwarded to a selection committee who will choose two new commissioners to fill the vacancies left behind by John Raglan and Tom Shipka. 

It is still unclear when that selection is expected to be made. 

The full list of applicants can be seen here:

Application #1 – Brian Michael Kennedy
Application # 2 – Jerome Williams    
Application # 3 – Peter Houston Milliken
Application # 4 – Jeff W. Harvey        
Application # 5 – Richard P. Clautti        
Application # 6 – Leo Howard Connelly Jr.    
Application # 7 – David N. Moliterno    
Application # 8 – Dr. Richard F. Marinelli
Application # 9 – Joshua Ryan Boyle    
Application # 10 – Martin E. Willmitch
Application # 11 – Janet Lee Reeves        
Application # 12 – Patricia L. Stokes
Application # 13 – Jeffrey M. Syphard    
Application # 14 – Thaddeus “Ted” J. Lyda, Jr
Application # 15 – Judd Adam Rubins    
Application #16 – Paul Normand Olivier    
Application # 17 – Charles Quentin Creager        
Application #18 – Jerome Williams
Application #19 – Colleen Bridget Lozano    
Application # 20 – Lauren Elizabeth Johnson        
Application# 21 – Don Manning    
Application # 22 – Julius Thomas Oliver

View the full article at wfmj.com

Mill Creek Park ice rink nears its opening

The ice rink at Mill Creek MetroParks is almost ready for skaters.

The ice is being smoothed and it is frozen solid to at least two inches thick.

The rink will open Jan. 2, weather permitting.

Skating is free but you have to bring your own skates.

The ice rink is located in the Wick Recreation Area.

The rink is open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Daily hockey hours are 3 p.m. 5 p.m.

View the full article at wkbn.com

Mill Creek to train professionals to protect park’s dying trees

The Mill Creek MetroParks board wants to protect its trees. But right now, it can’t because it doesn’t have properly-trained personnel.

However, the board is doubling the budget to look for diseased and dying trees in Mill Creek Park. The current budget sits at $10,000 and will become $20,000 heading into 2018.

The money will go towards training certain staff to becoming certified arborists — professionals in the cultivation, management and study of individual trees.

“There are people on our staff who have shown interest in becoming an arborist,” Lee Frey, president of Mill Creek Park’s commissioners, said. “This will allow not only to have an arborist, but also trained in other things that if we need them in either capacity, they will be able to do it.”

With winter setting in, insects commonly referred to as “wolly masses” threaten the health of Hemlock trees, which are commonly found in Mill Creek Park. Right now, the insect has come as close as Beaver County.

“We’re watching for it,” Frey said. “It’s coming this way. As far as we know, it has not gone into the park yet.”

The threat of diseased trees sparked the debate at the MetroParks special board meeting Monday night. The horticulture committee then requested there be a certified arborist in the park.

The park has not staffed an arborist since 2016.

“Nobody’s looking. Nobody’s out there,” one member of the horticulture committee said. “It’s nobody’s job to do that right now.”

They debated on just how to fill the position.

Some want it filled now, while others suggested paying for training and promoting within the current staff.

Horticulture committee member Ellen Speicher said the schooling for certification takes around three years — which she believes is too long to wait. She added that dead trees are hazards that can fall and harm both people and animals.

The board and the horticulture committee ultimately decided on training within. The compromise was that a third-party arborist will be hired to monitor the trees in the park until the staff they have now is fully-trained.

“In the meantime, we’ll use a service,” Frey said. “There are 70 arborist services within a 30-mile radius of the parks.”

The vote for this compromise was almost unanimous, with just one board member voting against it.

Now that the motion has passed, the board will start interviewing within the staff to decide who will get the training to become a certified arborist.

View the full article at wkbn.com

Mill Creek MetroParks to train arborist from within park workforce

Mill Creek MetroParks will open up training opportunities to employees who wish to become certified arborists.

The MetroParks board approved that action at a meeting tonight despite some disagreement on the issue.

The board’s standing committee on horticulture had recommended the MetroParks hire a full-time certified arborist. MetroParks Executive Director Aaron Young, however, recommended a different approach to maintaining the park’s trees: Training employees, and continuing the practice of contracting some work out.

“The recommendation to the board is one of cost-effectiveness that we feel is meeting the needs of the MetroParks,” he said.

Young said the MetroParks spends about 10 percent of what a full-time arborist would cost by maintaining trees via current staff and contracted services.

View the full article at vindy.com

Mill Creek Park sledding packed with first big snowfall

The 20-degree temperatures Thursday did not stop people from getting to Mill Creek MetroParks. Tons of families and friends bundled up and braved the cold for some winter fun.

The sled hill at the Wick recreation area is open for the season now that there’s snow sticking to the ground. Some people came back like they do every year, while others started up a tradition with their children.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever brought the kids here, but I used to come here as a kid,” Lindsay Wharry said. “Grandma lives across the street, so we’re sharing it with the kids.”

The park also has ice skating, a warming house and concession stand.

It’s free to sled and open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but it is depending on weather.

You can contact Mill Creek MetroParks with any questions at 330-702-3000.

View the full article at wkbn.com


Fellows Riverside Gardens celebrates Christmas season with month full of events


With Christmas just about two weeks away, Fellows Riverside Gardens in Mill Creek MetroParks is continuing to celebrate the holiday season with a month full of events.

For those who registered, children and their families were able to eat breakfast with Santa Saturday morning, catered by Inspired Catering by Kravitz.

Also in the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center, volunteers set up different games — past and present — and toys to create Toyland. Giant game pieces and toy soldiers, Legos, model trains and much more are displayed for all to see. Toyland runs every day for the rest of the month, except Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Along with Toyland, you can also take a look through the Holiday Tree Walk. About 51 trees are displayed throughout the Davis center, each decorated by a local non-profit organization.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Mill Creek Park’s MetroMutts group will host a Jingle Bells Hike starting at Pioneer Pavilion. The hike with your dogs is free, but non-members are asked to donate $2 for refreshments and photos with Santa.

To end the day, participate in Winter Celebration Nights from 5-7 p.m. Check out the outdoor light display, play games with your family and craft for the holidays. Inspired Catering by Kravitz will also serve hot chocolate and cookies. Winter Celebration Nights are every Saturday for the rest of December.

Throughout the day, the Davis Center will accept donations of non-perishable food items for the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.

View the full article at wkbn.com

Fellows Gardens’ Toyland for young, young-at-heart

Toys from generations young and old are filling the halls of the D.D. and Velma Davis Education & Visitor Center at Fellows Riverside Gardens this holiday season.

“The idea is to tie in some nostalgia so that the grandmas, grandpas and parents that come have something to show the kids,” horticulture educator Lynn Zocolo said. “It kind of gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.”

Fellows, 123 McKinley Ave., is celebrating the holiday season, which runs through Dec. 31, with Toyland, a departure from the center’s nature-oriented themes of the last few years, Zocolo said.

The Davis Center’s interior is decorated with a number of toy- and holiday-themed attractions, and has planned activities for younger patrons, and part of the gardens is decorated with holiday lights.

“It’s for the young and the young-at-heart,” she said.

Read more about it in Sunday’s Vindicator or on Vindy.com.