Culvert replaces turnpike bridge

Work on the eastbound lane of the turnpike near Kirk Road finished last week, and along with it, the structural work to the south-facing facade of a culvert for the Mill Creek MetroParks bike trail also was finished.

The $6.3 million project is funded through the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, which gets its income from tolls paid to use the 241-mile road, said turnpike spokesperson Brian Newbacher. The culvert replaces the turnpike bridge near Kirk Road, and makes way for an established section of the Mill Creek MetroParks bike trail, which is part of the larger Lake to River Western Reserve Greenway Bike Trail that runs from the Ohio River in East Liverpool to Lake Erie in Ashtabula.

“The turnpike contacted the MetroParks about the removal of the bridge,” said Mill Creek MetroParks Planning and Operations Director Stephen Avery. “They involved us from the beginning.”

He said the MetroParks and turnpike collaborated on the design and detail of the tunnel’s two identical concrete facades that when completed will resemble real rock like the kind used in structures at the Kirk Road trailhead.

Standing in front of the structurally complete facade under the eastbound turnpike traffic, Avery explained four colors of stain will give the concrete surface a natural rock look. He said a black keystone will be inlaid above the center of the tunnel, and in-set words reading “MetroParks Bikeway,” also will be inlaid with black to make them stand out.

Newbacher said although turnpike workers maintain all turnpike bridges, it was important to include the MetroParks in the design.

“We wanted to be a good neighbor and involve them in the project,” Newbacher said.

The turnpike commission also provided a paved, just more than a quarter-mile detour for MetroParks trail users. Avery said he believes part of the detour will remain in place when construction on the culvert is finished, mainly for turnpike maintenance. The part of the detour that connects to the bike trail will be torn up, he said.

A MetroParks counting device located several miles south of Kirk Road tallied about 83,000 trail users over the course of a year — averaging to about 227 per day. Avery said he believes the daily use of the Kirk Road trailhead is much higher than that number, as it is a popular place for cyclists and walkers to begin.

Newbacher said the culvert project has been part of the turnpike’s capital improvement project for the past two seasons.

“We looked at different options with that location because the bridge itself was becoming a problem for our maintenance crews, and this became the best option,” Newbacher said.

The move from bridge to culvert will mean less future maintenance on the structure and a long-term cost savings.

The project, which began in spring of last year, is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

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Old McDonald takes his barn to Canfield Fair

Llamas and turkeys and rabbits. Oh my…

It seemed like that’s what the wide-eyed children were thinking as they followed the little dirt path at Mill Creek MetroParks’ Old McDonald’s Barn at the Canfield Fair earlier this week.

Bill Gilmore, an educator / naturalist for Mill Creek MetroParks, brings about 30 animals to the fair each year.

“I help the kids pet the animals, then ensure that the kids have fun with them,” he said.

Gilmore, of Howland, brought the animals from the MetroParks Experimental Farm on Colum-biana-Canfield Road. People also can visit them there when it is not fair time.

The staff at the barn said they do their best to take care of the animals and their well-being is their highest concern. Staff is scheduled daily at 7 a.m. to begin feeding the animals.

This year, sheep, donkeys, geese, ducks, a rooster, chickens, rabbits, goats, a Holstein calf, a llama, an alpaca and several different species of birds were featured. Gilmore also had a pot-bellied pig in tow.

“We call him Peter Porker,” he joked, referring to Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker.

And Gilmore held a kid — a baby goat — so a different kind of kid could pet him.

“It’s a ball here,” he said about the fair. “We’ll have wall-to-wall people on the weekend.”

Gilmore, who has worked for the MetroParks for two years, served as a biology teacher for 36 years at Southeast High School in Portage County.

In addition to the farm, Mill Creek MetroParks features many other animals and locations to see them. They include Mill Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, with more than 200 documented bird species, along with deer and muskrats; Newport Wetlands attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and beavers; Mill Creek Preserve is 44 acres of birds, dragonflies, butterflies and giant crayfish; Vickers Nature Preserve has ducks, herons, river otters and an equestrian facility; and McGuffey Wildlife Preserve has wild turkeys, woodpeckers, hawks, deer and coyotes.

Old McDonald’s Farm at the Canfield Fair is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. today, Sunday and Monday.

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MetroParks Farm hosts first Nature Live event

The Mill Creek Park hosted their first Nature Live event on Aug. 4 at the MetroParks Farms.

Education Manager Mandy Smith organized the event with the rest of the education team.

“We as a group decided to kind of combine forces and make it a little bit more nature oriented instead of just one animal or group of animals,” Smith said.

She explained that the event was usually a bug or reptile day, but that the parks decided to combine all of the events into one that focused on a wider range of animals.

Smith said that at the event a number of organizations were present to showcase their animals.

Bee keeper Don Kovach, Birds of Flight, representatives from the South Side Butterfly event, and Keith Gisser with Herpes Alive were all present at the event.

“We are just promoting education, conservation of nature, awareness and appreciation,” Smith said. “It’s just a day to come out and enjoy.”

The event featured a number of actives for children of all ages.

Smith said that there was a room dedicated to Pre-K children being able to play and explore different types of animals.

The event also featured a touch table where community members can feel different types of fur and animal skulls.

A number of reptiles were available for children to hold, and there was even a honey tasting table.

“Anyone can come in,” Smith said. “We just want everyone to come and learn something and enjoy the farm.”

As they entered children received an activity card.

Smith said that if they completed five of the eight available activities and mark them on the card they receive a naturalist diploma to take home.

The barns at the MetroParks Farms were also open for community members to explore on their visit.

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Mill Creek Park hosts monthly Tales for Tots event

The Mill Creek Park hosted the monthly Tales for Tots event on Aug. 16 at Fellows Riverside Gardens.

Naturalist Marilyn Williams hosted the event for children ages 2 and 3.

“Today we are going to learn about ladybugs,” Williams said.

The event took place outside in the pavilion by the rose gardens, where Williams set up five interactive stations for children and their families to work at.

Williams started the event by reading to children about ladybugs.

“We are going to learn that all insects have six legs, that they are actually lady beetles, and that all ladybugs have two sets of wings,” Williams said.

She brought a ladybug pupa and a jar of aphids, which are smaller bugs that ladybugs eat, to show the children gathered at the event.

Families were then able to work through the stations.

They were able to match the number of spots on ladybugs, organize photos of the beetles life cycle and work on other ladybug themed activities.

After everyone worked through the stations Williams organized a nature walk to search for ladybugs.

“We like to encourage people to come out to the park,” Williams said. “A hike is always included so we get to just enjoy being outside.”

Six children attended the event with their parent or guardian.

Williams said that the park also hosts a monthly event for children ages 3-6 called Little Explorers.

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Through the Lens to be displayed in Weller Gallery

Mill Creek MetroParks presents “Through the Lens” which is currently on display in the Weller Gallery at Fellows Riverside Gardens. Experience regional photographer, Bill Aubuchon’s collection of people, places, and wildlife photography taken in various locations around the world. In most cases, the digital images receive little or no post processing. Bill tries to present actual images as they appeared at the moment of exposure. When he comes upon a scene that is of interest, he visualizes the final image and then transfers that information to the camera via shutter speed, lens opening, ISO and composition to arrive at the images presented in this exhibit. Aubuchon shares details on each photo as to the location, circumstance, type of camera used, and settings. Many residents of the Mahonng Valley may remember Bill as their “wedding photographer”. As a wedding photographer, Fellows Riverside Gardens is near and dear to his heart, as he took many bride and groom photos in the Gardens.


This free exhibit will be displayed through October 13, 2019 during normal operating hours of Tuesday -Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., closed Mondays. A Meet the Artist session will take place on Sunday, September 8, 2019 from 1 – 3 pm in the Weller Gallery at Fellows Riverside Gardens. Take this opportunity to meet and visit with this talented artist and educator.


For more information on this exhibit and/or the Meet the Artist session, visit or call Fellows Riverside Gardens at 330.740.7116.

Temporary Closure of East Golf Hike & Bike Trail

East Golf Hike & Bike Trail will be closed to all pedestrians and bicyclists between Boardman-Canfield Road and the West Golf Parking Lot beginning Tuesday, August 27, 2019 for replacement of a storm drainage pipe. The parking lot on Boardman-Canfield Road will also be closed. The northerly section of the trail will remain open for public use, from the West Golf Parking Lot to Shield Road. Work on the project is expected to be completed and the trail reopened for the Labor Day weekend.


In the event of inclement weather, the work schedule will be delayed and adjusted accordingly.

Mill Creek Park bridge closed Monday

The Dividing Sycamore Bridge in Mill Creek Park will close to traffic for roadway construction work Monday.

The closure will include a section of Bears Den Drive between West Drive and Cross Drive. The work is a component of the MetroParks’ capital improvement project to rehabilitate the historic sandstone bridge. The bridge and roadway will remain closed and inaccessible for about seven weeks.

All Mill Creek Park facilities near the project site, including Lower Bears Den Picnic Area, will remain open and accessible throughout the duration of the project. Previously scheduled races and events that require use of the bridge will not be impacted.

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Temporary Closure of Dividing Sycamore Bridge

The Dividing Sycamore Bridge in Mill Creek Park will close to traffic for roadway construction work on Monday, August 26, 2019. The temporary closure will include a section of Bears Den Drive between West Drive and Cross Drive. The work is a component of the MetroParks’ capital improvement project to rehabilitate the historic sandstone bridge. The bridge and roadway will remain closed and inaccessible for approximately seven weeks. All Mill Creek Park facilities near the project site, including Lower Bears Den Picnic Area, will remain open and accessible throughout the duration of the project. Previously scheduled races and events that require use of the bridge will not be impacted.


In the event of inclement weather, the work schedule will be delayed and adjusted accordingly.

Now run by Mill Creek MetroParks, master plan in the works for future of horse park

In early July, Mill Creek MetroParks commissioners decided park employees would now operate and maintain the Vickers Nature Preserve, ending 25 years of the preserve being run by a group known as the Buckeye Horse Park.

One month later, MetroParks administrators are already looking to the future and developing a master plan for Vickers.

Thursday afternoon at the Vickers Nature Preserve, located along Route 224 west, Brienna Donaldson and Houston Burbridge, both of Austintown, saddled up their horses for an afternoon ride.

“It’s a nice place. It’s close. It’s convenient,” Burbridge said.

“The trails could be marked a little bit better, they get confusing when you’re on them,” Donaldson said.

“Do we want to keep each and every component? Do we want to change it? Do we want to upgrade it? Do we want to renovate?” asked Steve Avery, director of planning and operations for Mill Creek MetroParks.

Avery is responsible for putting together the master plan for the Vickers Nature Preserve of the future. He already has several ideas.

“We have a pond… well, let’s let fishing in here — there’s a recreational use that we can have happen like that. And if we add a dock or a fishing pier, that actually improves accessibility,” he said.

Avery wants new restrooms, especially since the lone restroom at Vickers is an outhouse. Another possibility is a playground with an equestrian theme. He would also like to build a second pavilion on site.

“So you could just come, ‘Hey, I just want to come here with my family,’ and rent that. I don’t want to rent the ring — yeah, you could do that,” Avery said.

But the ring, the barns and everything else horses can be rented, too.

Although there were no big horse shows this year, there could be some in the future, just like there were in the past.

Donaldson suggests creating areas for advanced riders.

“Different obstacles, like, different things that the horses can do, like bridges, maybe some water they can cross over, something to make them think a little bit about what they’re going to do,” she said.

Currently, Vickers is geared toward horses, which will continue to be the focus. But it could change, at least a little bit.

“I mean, we’re not going to put a soccer complex here. So you gotta think through some things and play off what you already have,” Avery said.

Avery has no timetable yet for when any work would get done.

Mill Creek has some drawings of what’s being proposed on its website and is also looking for public comments on the Vickers master plan, which must be submitted by Friday, Sept. 13.

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Youngstown roads closing for Party on the Plaza, Panerathon

Some roads are closing in downtown Youngstown because of two big events.

North Phelps Street between Commerce and West Federal will close for Party on the Plaza.

The road will be closed from 11 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Saturday.

On Sunday at 7 a.m., there will be several road closings for the Panerathon. Closings are expected to end around noon.

Roads in Mill Creek Park closing for the race include Price Road, Price Road entrance of Fellows Riverside Gardens, W. Glacier and West drives and Slippery Rock Bridge.

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