Golfers were greeted with many improvements when the 18-hole Mill Creek Park North Course opened last month for the 2021 season.
The work is part of the park’s golf course comprehensive plan. So far, $982,000 has been spent through year six of this 10-year, $3 million project, says Brian Tolnar, Mill Creek MetroParks golf and recreation director. The South Course opened this month.
Completed improvements include replacement of benches on all 36 holes, reconstruction of 22 cart paths and the sealing of the remaining 14. Additional upgrades include improved irrigation on more than 325 acres – or 75% of the goal – to enhance turf quality and eliminate standing water, as well as the enhancement of 85 bunkers with new drainage, sod and sand to eliminate standing water and recapture the course’s original design.
Remaining projects include:
- Replacement of three restrooms and seven shelters.
- Restoration of streams, enhancement of wetlands and floodplains, and stormwater management work.
- Completion of an indoor bar area at Hole 55 Bar and Grill, as well as lobby and restroom upgrades and the addition of a patio.
- Construction of a barn to store carts and equipment.
- Expanding the outdoor cart lot.
Funding is being sought for a learning center and practice area; an indoor player development center with three simulator bays, putting area, club fitting area and restrooms; and further parking lot and landscaping improvements.
“All of the recent improvements have been completed utilizing the MetroParks’ general fund as presented in the annual board-approved budget,” says Justin Rogers, planning and operations director for Mill Creek MetroParks. “No government grants were used.”
“As we move forward, we’ll attempt to identify and match available state and federal grants for improvement projects,” Rogers continues.
Money came from grants from the Donald Ross Society, financial assistance from the Mahoning Valley Hospital Foundation and American Junior Golf Association, Tolnar states. These golf course projects are part of an effort to preserve the history and ambiance of Mill Creek MetroParks.
“The goal is to make the place better than how we found it,” Tolnar says. “I think we’re slowly, slowly getting there, so it’s exciting.”
Mill Creek will continue to maintain pandemic-related safety protocols, including extra sanitation measures and eliminating common touch points such as golf ball washers and rakes in sand traps.
If golfers are uncomfortable being in the pro shop, they can pay for their round in advance, Tolnar says. A receipt is emailed to the customer, who must then check in with the starter on either course.
Profits at Mill Creek’s golf courses increased about 25 percent in 2020 despite being closed March and April because of the pandemic, Tolnar says. The usage of the par-3 course at the Wick Recreation Area doubled as well.
Mother Nature cooperated as well with less than 10 rainout days, Tolnar says.
“Our goal this year and throughout the next two years is player retention,” he says.
Pictured: Brian Tolnar standing at the sign introducing the Mill Creek Golf Course’s North Course prior to the opening in late March.