Outside media coverage of Mill Creek MetroParks

Mill Creek’s North Course to open today for 2020 golf season

The North Course at Mill Creek Golf Course is scheduled to open for the season at noon today (March 16).

On Friday, in reacting to the coronavirus pandemic, Mill Creek MetroPark officials said, “All Mill Creek MetroParks outdoor locations will remain open including Mill Creek Park, Fellows Riverside Gardens, MetroParks Bikeway, Mill Creek Golf Course, James L. Wick Recreation Area, Scholl Recreation Area, Yellow Creek Park, and All Nature Preserves.”

To check on any changes or to schedule tee times, call 330-740-7112 or go to www.millcreekmetroparks.org.

The South Course has a tentative opening date of April 6, weather permitting.

The Practice Range and Learning Center at the Mill Creek Golf Course and the James L. Wick Jr. Recreation Area par-3 golf course are both scheduled to open April 13.

Full article at mahoningmatters.com

Mill Creek Park celebrates warmer weather with new boat launch

If kayaking is your way of enjoying the warm days, you have a new spot to check out in Mill Creek MetroParks.

The East Newport Boat Launch is officially open. The dock has been replaced with floating plastic docks, a non-slip ramp, a double stainless steel railing and a new observation deck with built-in benches.

New metal kayak racks have been installed as well. A few people were out Monday checking out the new facility, and it should be even more popular this summer.

Full article at wkbn.com

Bouldering: A Growing Sport In Youngstown

Interested in bouldering in the Youngstown area? Look no further than Youngstown State University’s Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center or behind Bears Den Cabin in Mill Creek Park.

Bouldering is different from rock climbing, according to Norm Swann, Northern Ohio stewardship director of the Ohio Climber’s Coalition.

“Bouldering is extremely hard moves at a very short distance. It is climbing on rocks that are very short without a rope,” he said. “Generally, rock climbing is higher. The goal is to get to the top of the boulder. Boulders are typically only 15 feet tall or so. Sometimes we do a sit-down start where you sit on your mat to get more climbing.”

“Highball bouldering has elite climbers practicing with ropes on rocks 50 feet tall. Then there is solo climbing where you go high enough that you can die.” Swann said there are various styles of bouldering and they can be very dangerous.

R.J. Markowitz, the adventure recreation coordinator for the Department of Campus Recreation, said bouldering is a more technical form of climbing.

“It is a lot more problem-solving [than rock climbing], a lot more moving your body in unique ways.”

YSU will host a bouldering competition at the climbing wall inside Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center on Feb. 29 at 10 a.m.

Jacob Winters, a sophomore computer science major and member of the adventure rec team, said that the competition will have many climbers and multiple routes for them to travel along the wall.

“The competition entails about 40 to 45 routes on the lower section of the wall,” he said. “Twenty to 30 climbers are going to come in and be looking to climb the various routes from beginner to expert difficulty. They are going to get points based on the difficulty of the routes they climbed and how many attempts it took them to climb it.”

Markowitz is in charge of setting the competition up and said it is open for anyone, including the general public.

“The one thing that I love about this is we get climbers from all over coming. Usually, when we host this competition, we’ll have folks from West Virginia University, Edinboro, Toledo and Slippery Rock always have a great turnout here,” he said.

Markowitz said it’s a way for climbers to exchange ideas and network.

He said people have competed on the rock wall for at least 10 years, with the bouldering competition occurring once a year.

“They’ve been doing some sort of series like this since the wall has been at YSU,” he said. “We do some sort of competition like this every semester, excluding the summer.”

Winters said the adventure rec team is planning a trip to Mill Creek Park over the summer, which was recently approved for bouldering.

Jamie Yohman, Mill Creek MetroParks community engagement director, said bouldering in the park was approved in the Bears Den Cabin area Nov. 12 and boulderers must follow park rules.

“The park will not supply equipment to the climbers,” she said. “Climbing with ropes, anchors and bolts is banned.”

“We are very much a community down here. Everybody who comes down here, they want to climb. They want to help you climb,” he said.  Markowitz said while Mill Creek MetroParks is for more experienced climbers, the rec center wall is perfect for beginners.

“Our staff is incredibly knowledgeable; they are trained,” Markowitz added. “They will climb with you whether it is your first time down here or whether it’s your 500th time. This is the best part to start.”

Bouldering will be available in Mill Creek Park during regular park hours, while the rec center climbing wall is open 12-8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Those who want to participate can preregister for the bouldering competition at YSU at store.reccenter.ysu.edu for $20 or sign up at the event for $25.


Full article at thejambar.com

Nature Photography Exhibit to be displayed in Mill Creek’s Weller Gallery

Photographs from amateur photographers will be on display from Saturday (Feb. 15) through April 12 during the annual Nature Photography Exhibit in the Weller Gallery in the D.D. and Velma Davis Education & Visitor Center at Mill Creek MetroParks’ Fellows Riverside Gardens, 123 McKinley Ave.

The free exhibit offers visitors an opportunity to view landscapes, wild animals, Mill Creek MetroParks scenes and more through the lens of the photographers during normal operating hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays.

A session to meet the photographers will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 23.

For information on the exhibit, call Fellows Riverside Gardens at 330-740-7116.

Full article at mahoningmatters.com

Mill Creek Park improvements coming

Mill Creek MetroParks enthusiasts may notice changes around the park system as the year progresses.

Multiple capital improvement projects are on the calendar, including the renovation of the Ford Nature Center, with a capital campaign project aimed at $3 million.

Throughout the rest of the year, multiple improvement projects totaling $1.9 million are scheduled.

“It’s going to be a big year,” said Steve Avery, former planning and operations director, who recently retired.

Following the Ford Nature Center project, Avery said Wick Recreation Area will see sprucing up, with a cost of $500,000.

As “unexciting” as that project may sound, “it is exciting” as a new maintenance facility will be constructed, which will be used for storage and equipment servicing, Avery said.

The warming house, which Avery described as “a nice, relatively historic structure,” will be renovated. The warming house, which has been utilized as a maintenance facility, will house various programs upon completion.

Next on the improvements list in terms of cost are road improvements, for $350,000.

East Newport Drive, from Shields Road to Kreider’s Entrance, will be improved, while Valley Drive from East Park Drive to the suspension bridge will see improvements.

Partially funded by the biennial Ohio Department of Transportation road tax allocation, storm drainage and pipe replacement will occur, along with guardrail improvements, asphalt paving, pavement markings and aggregate shoulders.

The next costly project is cart path paving at Mill Creek Golf Course, with $325,000 set aside.

Paving will take place “substantially on the south course,” Avery said. Some years ago, aggregate cart paths were constructed, and now this year those paths, totaling about 2.6 miles, will be paved.

Fellows Riverside Garden, also known as “the rose garden,” will see a brand new structure that will serve as the outdoor educational building.

Avery said the proposed structure will be constructed in the Children’s Garden.

This project received the core of its funding through private funds, Avery said. About $200,000 comes from the Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens endowment fund.

One unique project will cover a distance, Avery said.

General annual trail improvements will be underway, costing $175,000.

Resurfacing the MetroParks Bikeway will include asphalt repair and paving, and aggregate shoulders.

The bikeway goes from Trumbull County through Austintown, into Canfield where it ends at Western Reserve Road. Two miles of the bikeway are anticipated to be worked on, Avery said.

Smaller projects are included in the trail improvements category, including the bridge construction at the Hitchcock Woods Hiking Trail, maintenance at the Vickers Nature Preserve and East Golf Hike and Bike Trail.

Other projects slated for 2020 throughout Mill Creek MetroParks are:

• Parking lot improvements for $150,000;

• Signage improvements for $25,000;

• Pavilion improvements at Old Log Cabin and Scholl Pavilion for $25,000;

• Comfort station improvements at the Lily Pond for $50,000;

• Bridge improvements on Old Orchard Bridge for $200,000;

• Mill Creek Wildlife Sanctuary and Mill Creek Preserve improvements for $40,000;

• McGuffey Wildlife Preserve improvements for $50,000;

• Other Fellows Riverside Gardens improvements for $75,000.

Professional consultant services were budgeted, including $150,000 for the Ford Nature Center, $35,000 for the Wick Recreation Area maintenance facility, and $50,000 for the Wick Recreation Area warming house.

Mill Creek MetroParks has 12 locations that span over seven townships, three cities and one village.

Full article at vindy.com

Longtime park director retires

Today marks the end of an era for Mill Creek MetroParks and its planning and operations director Steve Avery.

After 31 years with the park, Avery is retiring.

“I’m blessed I could be at one place for that long for one career,” Avery said.

His story began more than 35 years ago, when he attended The Ohio State University, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture.

Working in Columbus for one year, he then progressed to the city of Cleveland.

In 1989, Avery saw a job posting at Mill Creek Park and decided to apply. “It appealed to me to work in a park district,” he said.

The advancement, as he called it, wasn’t just a planning position, but also a challenge.

“They knew they wanted an on-staff landscape architect to direct. They picked me. Next thing you know, 31 years went by,” Avery said.

Avery grew up in Hinckley Township in Medina County. Growing up, he said his family rented a house in the park district there, so the idea to work in a park was attractive.

There are several milestone projects sprinkled throughout Avery’s career.

“Every achievement is so unique. We’ve had some really awesome projects,” he said, adding that while the projects weren’t necessarily costly, they were one-of-a-kind, which “really made them special.”

The bikeway spanning across Mahoning County is one memory Avery looks back on fondly.

“It was an old abandoned rail line that ran across the county,” he said. Although the trail isn’t exactly inside Mill Creek Park, it still gives people a reason to visit the area.

The Kirk Road Trailhead project was another highlight Avery mentioned, noting the abandonded county engineer outpost facility was redeveloped when it was given to the MetroParks.

“Mahoning Avenue is five lanes of traffic there, so (bicyclists) had to cross five lanes which was difficult depending on the time of day,” he recalled. Through federal funding, an overpass was built, allowing people on bikes or runners/walkers to contine on their way without the worry of rush hour traffic.

“Major rehabilitation” on the silver suspension bridge, more commonly known as “The Cinderella Bridge” is another milestone of which Avery is proud.

“When you’re working on an 1890s structure, there’s lots of care that goes to it, keeping it looking as good but also improving it,” he said.

Another “really satisfying and exciting project” was adding a floating boardwalk to the back portion of the Lily Pond.

In his new role as retiree, Avery said he “plans on doing a number of things,” such as devoting a little more time to nonprofits he’s involved with, as well as preparing for his fifth grandchild.

He is also looking forward to helping his son, a pastor of a small church. “I’ll be able to devote more time to taking care of the grounds,” he said.

Still, he doesn’t want to jump right into work after retirement. Avery hopes to rest a little, saying he knows he has some items to cross off the “honey-do” list.

Laughing, he said he has “1,001 projects at home.”

Full article at vindy.com

Mill Creek MetroParks presents Jewels of Winter orchid exhibit

Mill Creek MetroParks will host Jewels of Winter, a celebration and display of orchids, at Fellows Riverside Gardens during normal hours of operation from Tuesday (Jan. 28) through March 1.

Fellows Riverside Gardens is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

This year’s theme will showcase orchids as highly sought-after, Victorian-era jewels. Hundreds of orchids will be on display throughout the D.D. and Velma Davis Center.

Full article at mahoningmatters.com

Ford Nature Center to get face-lift

As 2020 ramps up, Mill Creek MetroParks’ Ford Nature Center will be going on hiatus.

Expected to be closed for two years beginning Feb. 1 for the Ford Nature Center Redevelopment Project, the building will undergo a series of makeovers totaling about $3 million.

“As a kindergartner in 1974, I remember a class trip there,” said Chris Litton, director of development for Mill Creek MetroParks. “My second day on the job in 2017. … It was deja vu. The center didn’t change in all those years,” he said.

Built in 1913, the stone mansion sits in the northern portion of Mill Creek Park at 840 Old Furnace Road. Donated to the park in 1968, it opened as the headquarters for nature education in 1974. About 18 months ago, park officials identified that the building was “in dire need” of a makeover, said Aaron Young, executive director of the park’s board.

“Only a few minor upgrades” have taken place since 1974, Young said.

Removal of equipment and paperwork inside the center will take up February and part of March, planning director Steve Avery said.

Items that will need to head to storage may be placed in off-site locations or a pod that will be kept on site. Employees will be going through files from the last several decades.

After the cleanup, Avery said abatement of hazardous materials will take place.

In 2017, a hazardous-material sampling was completed. Lead paint was found, along with a small amount of asbestos in old plaster. The amount of asbestos is “extremely low” Avery said.

Once the center is closed to the public, the programs hosted at the building will be

conducted elsewhere in the park district, Avery explained.

DLR Group of Cleveland helped develop renderings for the new vision of the center, Avery said.

Bids for construction of the project will open in March. Once the job is awarded, Avery said park trustees and project planners anticipate starting the work this year.

A number of existing architectural pieces will be kept and incorporated into the new building design. Woodwork, some cabinets and tile will still have that same “ambiance” of the original building, Avery said. “It’s not like we’re removing 100 percent of everything and only keeping the exterior shell,” he explained, adding that many details from the 1913 version of the house will be preserved.

A garage on the property matches the architectural design of the house, and it hasn’t been used for anything except storage. Once it is refurbished, it will be called the Education Building.

Avery said the three-story building will house a large classroom, smaller educational spaces, a gift shop, rooftop garden, exhibits and gift shop.

A grant is paying for some of the project.

“On Nov. 1, 2018, we received the Challenge Grant from the Sandhill Foundation in California,” Litton said.

The grant is being used to match $1 million in donations the Ford Nature Center expects to receive before the end of the so-far successful campaign.

So far, more than 132 donors have given to the cause. A bulk of the money raised came from “everyday donors,” Litton said. That includes individual donors writing checks or dropping off money while they peruse the center.

Larger donations have been made, too, Litton said.

The Ward Beecher family donated $250,000, along with the Finnegan family. Another large donation totaled $350,000, and the Youngstown Foundation sent $100,000.

“People love the park,” Litton said. “The education center is long overdue for some care and renovation.”

The Ford Nature Center sees more than 40,000 visitors a year, including 15,000 schoolchildren. The mansion housing the center was donated to then-Youngstown Township Park District by the Judge John Ford family.

Full article at vindy.com

MetroParks seeks applications for Citizens Advisory Committees

Mill Creek MetroParks is seeking applicants to fill various positions on the newly reauthorized Citizens Advisory Committees, which will operate in an advisory capacity to the MetroParks Board of Commissioners.

Mahoning County residents representing a variety of interests in natural resources, recreation, education and finance are urged to apply.

For more information or to apply, go to www.millcreekmetroparks.org. The application deadline is 4:30 p.m. Feb. 6.

Full article at mahoningmatters.com

Ford Nature Center to be closed for 2 years starting Feb. 1

Mill Creek MetroParks is temporarily closing the Ford Nature Center beginning Feb. 1 to begin a redevelopment project.

The project is expected to take up to 24 months to complete, with an anticipated reopening schedule of spring or summer 2022.

“We are thrilled to be able to announce the start of such a highly anticipated and critically needed project,” Aaron Young, executive director of Mill Creek MetroParks, said in a news release.

The Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation first launched the capital campaign for the redevelopment of the Ford Nature Center in July 2018. The foundation has raised $2,530,262 toward its $3 million goal and received a $1 million matching challenge grant from the Sand Hill Foundation of Menlo Park, Calif.

Once complete, the project will allow the Ford Nature Center to continue serving the community as a primary resource for nature-based education through the use of 21st-century classrooms, learning labs, exhibits and outdoor environment, according to the news release.

 “We appreciate the support the community has provided through the campaign and look forward to the successful completion of the project,” Young said.

Full article at mahoningmatters.com