Mill Creek MetroParks presents Jewels of Winter Orchid Exhibit

Mill Creek MetroParks will be hosting the Jewels of Winter, a wonderful celebration and display of orchids at Fellows Riverside Gardens during their normal hours of operation January 29  – March 3, 2019. This year’s theme will showcase orchids interspersed among Valley artifacts, paying homage to its industrialist roots. Orchids are the crown jewels of the plant world, full of color and allure. Let them dazzle you with their brilliance and splendor! Bring your camera, as there will be a kaleidoscope of flowers to photograph.

Fellows Riverside Gardens is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. For questions and more information, please call 330.740.7116.

MetroParks plans capital improvements worth $5.36 million

Mill Creek MetroParks planning and operations director Steve Avery presented the park’s capital improvement plan for 2019 at the board’s Monday meeting.

The plan is expected to cost $5.36 million, with grant money comprising at least $1.18 million of the total.

The plan’s largest project is the redevelopment of the Ford Nature Center, which is expected to cost $3.3 million. 

Thus far, the park has raised about $1 million. The park has also secured a $1 million challenge grant for the project from the Sand Hill Foundation.

Other big-ticket projects include the construction of a maintenance area near the Wick Recreation Area, which will cost about $500,000, and improvements on the golf course, which will cost about $300,000.

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Promoting unity through art

Students from Trumbull and Mahoning County schools and area colleges are coming together in unity as part of a “Unity Project”designed to not only showcase students’ artistic talents but share a message of building a better community and world.

The Unity Project with the theme “UNITE! Dream to build a better community, a better World” is being displayed through Jan. 31 at Mill Creek MetroParks Fellows Riverside Gardens. A reception and open house to meet students who took part in the project is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the D.D. and Velma Davis Education Center.

Tracy Schuler Vivo, director of Visual and Performing Arts for Youngstown City Schools, said this is the second year for the project, which started with Youngstown school children and has expanded to eight other area schools such as Austintown, Liberty, Lordstown, Kent State University and Youngstown State University.

Each school and district submitted large 3-foot by 4-foot collaborative paintings on canvas in December. Pieces include images, symbols, letters and lines along with a theme and quote.

“The Unity Project is a true community effort. The project symbolizes unity through the collaborative painting process. The students showed a lot of effort and work in completing this. This project brought everyone together and shows the community that we can all be part of something together,”she said.

There will be 24 canvases, with 12 from Youngstown schools.

Vivo said students in both elementary and high schools had the opportunity to contribute to the Unity Project, painting in their own way. Each painting was accompanied by a quote explaining each building’s take on unity.

Each school received a blank canvas to be utilized for a collaborative painting / project with visual art students creating a unified vision for the collaborative project in correlation with the theme. A title for the piece and an original quote generated by the discussion between the visual art teacher and students also accompanied it.

“This project was a big success last school year in its inaugural year and we are now broadening our reach to other districts and area universities this year. Last year’s images will soon be displayed permanently in downtown Youngstown in collaboration with YSUscape,” she said.

Following the display at Mill Creek Park, the exhibit will be shown at other area locations for the remainder of the 2018-19 school year, at community venues such as Mahoning County Library branches and the McDonough Museum of Art.

Verna DelDuca, art teacher for Lordstown schools, said each student taking art at Lordstown High School was asked to develop and contribute to the art piece that promoted community building. When completed, the project was titled “Rays of Light” with the slogan “Let the community rays of light shine.”

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Notice of MetroParks Standing Committee Meeting

The Nature Education Standing Committee to the Board of Park Commissioners of Mill Creek MetroParks will meet on Thursday, January 17, 2019, at 6:30 pm, at the Ford Nature Center.

Notice of January Board Meeting

The next Regular Meeting of the Board of Park Commissioners, of Mill Creek MetroParks is scheduled for Monday, January 14, 2019, at 6 p.m. in McMahon Hall, at the MetroParks Farm, on Rt. 46 in Canfield. The agenda will be available on the website after 2 p.m. on the day of the meeting.

Mill Creek Park still looking for $1 million to renovate Ford Nature Center


Four years ago, Mill Creek MetroParks announced plans to renovate the Ford Nature Center. But, the park system is still $1 million short of the money needed to get it done.

It’s been a long fundraising effort which, if all goes as planned, should end in the next few months.

Looking at some of the park’s drawings can give you an idea of what a renovated Ford Nature Center will look like.

“As you move around to the back of the building, you’ll see some dramatic changes,” said Mill Creek Development Director Chris Litton.

The back of Judge John Ford’s 106-year-old house will be the focal point of the renovation, with a landscaped patio on top of a new exhibit space built into the hill.

The exterior will be cleaned and the carriage house transformed into an education center. Inside is where, since 1972, students have been taught about nature. It too will be redone with new stairs and an elevator added.

“It’s a $3 million project. We’ve raised $1 million over the course of the last year and we received a million dollar match from the Sand Hill Foundation of Menlo Park, California,” Litton said.

Sand Hill is run by the daughter-in-law of the late Judge Ford, who lived in the house and gave it to the park. When she heard the house was going to be preserved, she wanted the Ford family to be a part of it.

That leaves $1 million still to be raised, which Litton admits is a lot of money. But, he hopes to have it done by spring.

“People love Mill Creek and love the Ford Nature Center, so we’re very optimistic that we’ll reach that goal,” he said.

The renovation won’t start until all the money is there.

“We’ll start when we have the full $3 million in pledges,” Litton said.

It’s possible some park money could eventually be used, but not $1 million worth.

“We can put park money towards it, but we want to see how much we can raise of the remaining million,” Litton said.

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Notice of MetroParks Standing Committee Meetings

The Community Engagement Standing Committee to the Board of Park Commissioners of Mill Creek MetroParks will meet on Friday, January 11, 2019, at 10 a.m. in Classroom A at the MetroParks Farm.

The Finance Standing Committee to the Board of Park Commissioners of Mill Creek MetroParks will meet on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at 10 a.m. in Classroom A at the MetroParks Farm.

The Horticulture Standing Committee to the Board of Park Commissioners of Mill Creek MetroParks will meet on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, at 6 p.m. at Birch Hill Cabin.

The Environment Standing Committee to the Board of Park Commissioners of Mill Creek MetroParks will meet on Thursday, January 24, 2019, at 12 noon in Classroom A at the MetroParks Farm.


Fellows Riverside Garden hosts annual winter celebration

The Mill Creek MetroParks are celebrating Fellow Riverside Garden’s 60th anniversary during their annual Winter Celebration.

This year’s celebration has a “Frozen in Time” theme to celebrate the diamond anniversary of the facility.

Jaime Yohman, the park’s Community Engagement Director, said that annually non-profit organizations purchase 60 trees spread throughout the facility to decorate during the event.

“It’s a community event, and we have a large response from the community throughout the month of December,” Yohman said.

Along with the annual tree walk to celebrate the anniversary, the committee created a memory wall.

“We reached out to the community and asked for any pictures of the gardens throughout the years,” said Sharmon Lesnak, the head volunteer for the event. Lesnak, along with Pam Nock and Debbie Walker, organized the event and coordinated the volunteers.

“We really want to thank the volunteers. They’re great and this would not be possible without them,” Lesnak said.

The planning for the event begins in early June when the committee starts organizing work shop days. During the workshops, Lesnak said they hand-make ornaments to use during the month of December to decorate the gardens.

This year, Lesnak and other committee members used plastic bottles and permanent markers to hand make ornaments for the event. All supplies were donated by community members and created by volunteers.

“It’s a huge undertaking every year,” Yohman said. “But Sharmon is very creative and we always have a beautiful turn out.”

The event will also feature characters from Disney’s “Frozen” to fit the theme.

Sister’s Anna and Elsa will make an appearance on Saturdays during December for children and their families to enjoy.

“It’s really a big community event,” Lesnak said. “We always try to have something for the kids to enjoy.”

Along with the tree walk and the visits from Disney characters, the event will feature a number of musicians to entertain community members. The community is also invited to bring a donation of non perishable food that the park will give to the Second Harvest food bank at the end of the event. Kravitz Deli will also offer food specials throughout December at their Garden Cafe.

“Community members can come in, see the lights and have a nice meal at the cafe,” Yohman said. “It’s really a great event everyone seems to have fun.”

Frozen in Time will run through Dec. 30 at Fellows Riverside Garden, with the garden staying open till 7 p.m. on Saturdays to accommodate guests.

“We really owe so much of this to the lovely volunteers,” Lesnak said. “Without them none of this would be possible.”

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Mill Creek Receives $500K for Ford Nature Center Renovation

Mill Creek MetroParks has received $500,000 from the Florence Simon Beecher & John D. Finnegan Foundations to support the renovation of Ford Nature Center.

The donation will be used to renovate the carriage house, which will serve as an education building and the hub of group tours. For the donation, the carriage house will be named the Beecher Finnegan Education Building.

“This building will serve as the gateway to learning about the natural wonders of the world for thousands of local school children each year. Its impact on not only the Ford Nature Center but the entire MetroParks will be felt for generations to come,” said MetroParks director of development Chris Litton in a release.

So far, a third of the $3 million cost for the renovation project has been raised. The Sand Hill Foundation of Menlo Park, Calif., will match donations made after Nov. 1, 2018, up to $1 million.

Ford Nature Center was donated to Mill Creek MetroParks in 1968 by Tom and Susan Ford, the children of the late Judge John W. Ford. The building, designed by architect Charles F. Owsley, briefly served as the park’s administrative office before being converted to Ford Nature Center in 1972.

Each year, more than 14,000 students visit the center, Litton said, to take part in its exhibits, programs, walking trails and special events.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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Renovation project at Mill Creek receives $500,000

The Ford Nature Center at Mill Creek MetroParks announces it has received a $500,000 contribution toward renovations. 

The Florence Simon Beecher & John D. Finnegan Foundations combined to make the donation to the $3 million project. 

This donation will directly benefit the renovation work on the carriage house which will serve as an education building, a central hub of all school-based and group tours of the Ford Nature Center upon completion. 

The MetroParks Board of Park Commissioners has elected to name the completed structure “The Beecher Finnegan Education Building,” in the donor’s honor. 

“Our grateful appreciation goes out to the Florence Simon Beecher & John D. Finnegan Foundations for their generous contribution to the new Education Building at the Ford Nature Center. This building will serve as the gateway to learning about the natural wonders of the world for thousands of local school children each year. Its impact on not only the Ford Nature Center but the entire MetroParks will be felt for generations to come,” says Chris Litton, Mill Creek MetroParks Director of Development.

The project has currently raised $1 million of the $3 million goal, and The Sand Hill Foundation of Menlo Park, California has offered a challenge grant which will match donations raised after November 1 up to $1 million.

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