Park plan focuses on hikers, bikers

Among the proposals are bridges to carry bicyclists and pedestrians over busy Mahoning Avenue and Shields Road.
CANFIELD -- Several safety and comfort improvements for hikers and bicyclists are among major items in a long-range plan compiled by Mill Creek Metroparks and the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.
A $133,000 federal grant has been approved for restoration of a 1930s vintage stone building at Kirk Road in Austintown for use as an education and support building for Mahoning Bikeway users, said Susan Dicken, park development director. A restroom, water fountain and information kiosk installation also will be paid for by that grant, she added.
The state is committed to supplement the grant with $165,950, which will pay for installation there of a 50-car parking lot, a connecting spur from the parking lot to the bikeway, another water fountain, and conversion of a county garage into a picnic pavilion, she said.
All of these bikeway improvements at Kirk Road, known as the Kirk Road Trailhead project, are to be built next year, she added.
Bridge plan: Construction of a $1.8 million bridge to carry the bikeway over busy Mahoning Avenue is planned for 2004.
Major construction also is planned on Shields Road at Mill Creek Park. Next year, Mahoning County will replace the bridge that carries Shields Road over Mill Creek with a wider bridge featuring bicycle lanes on both sides.
In the same area, using federal funding, the park is planning a $164,000 bike trail connector with a prefabricated bridge over Mill Creek linking East and West Newport drives to be built in 2003, and a $601,000 bike and pedestrian bridge to be built in 2005 over Shields, linking the East Golf Hike and Bike Trail with East Newport Drive.
"They're wonderful projects that the park is really looking forward to. We think that they will be a great asset to the community," said M. Virginia Dailey, park board president. "They will allow people to travel and see nature and enjoy the park without being on the busy roadways."
Opposition: But at a recent park board meeting, Lucky Kaiser of Sheban Drive said she thinks the park's plans for that area are financially wasteful and that the proposed East and West Newport connector threatens the delicate wetlands along Mill Creek and the plant and animal habitat they provide.
The bridge is unnecessary and could be replaced with a pedestrian-activated traffic light, she said. The area could be made safer for pedestrians and cyclists by installing stop signs and a bike path along Sheban Drive and enforcing the 25 mph speed limit, she said.
"That area in there is a really interesting area if you want to hike in the natural part of the park," said Dave Williams, of Lockwood Boulevard. "I think you ought to start looking at how you can enhance that original trail experience that the original park founders tried to give us," he told park commissioners.
Accessibility: Dicken said the federal government would never allow the park to destroy wetlands and that, for people to enjoy nature, the area has to be accessible.
The park's plans would make it possible for pedestrians and bicyclists using the park to completely avoid Sheban Drive and Shields Road and their heavy motor-vehicle traffic, she added.
Longer-range plans include a $132,000 bridge replacement on Mill Creek Park's East Cohasset Hike and Bike Trail; a $1,360,000, six-mile southward extension of the Mahoning Bikeway from Western Reserve Road to state Route 14; an $89,000 restoration of Mill Creek park's 1895-vintage Silver Bridge; and a $128,000 rehabilitation of the park's Slippery Rock Bridge over Mill Creek.
All of these plans will be discussed in future public meetings, Dicken said.

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