Many residents say the beach is their community's primary asset.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CRAIG BEACH -- Lindsey Hanshaw doesn't have to eat cotton candy or ride a roller coaster to enjoy an afternoon at Craig Beach. All she needs is her hands, some sand and her imagination.
"I like to build walls, so I can put a castle on them," said Lindsey, 8, of Warren, as she put the finishing touches on an inch-high sand wall near a shallow hole in the beach.
Zak Curto, also 8 and of Warren, filled the hole with a bucket full of water from Lake Milton. Zak said he enjoyed creating pools in the cool shade of the trees at the edge of the beach.
"We hate the sun," Zak said.
Fifty years ago, children like Lindsey and Zak came to the west side of Lake Milton to enjoy rides and concessions at the Craig Beach Amusement Park on Jersey Street. A trip to the park was a summer tradition for some local families.
That tradition ended in 1966, when the park was razed to make room for a new recreation facility that was never built.
Yet the lack of a tea-cup ride and hot dog vendors hasn't stopped summer revelers from visiting the 600-foot-long strip of sand just north of the former site of the amusement park.
This year, the beach has been crowded with people trying to relax and escape the record-setting heat.
Barbara Neill, assistant manager for Lake Milton State Park, estimated that 72,125 have visited the beach since the beginning of the year. The beach is a part of the state park.
A total of 55,800 people visited the beach last year, Neill said.
"We've just been jam-packed every day," she said.
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Mike Wasmund, 28, of Campbell, said his family comes to the beach to "let the kids come out, get sun and play in the water."
Newton Falls residents Corey Harris, 16, and Jayson Bever, 17, said they were happy to have a beach 10 minutes from their homes. Harris said he comes to the beach once or twice each week.
"I meet my friends from school here," Bever added.
Ed Whorley, 74, of Girard, recently enjoyed a quiet moment sitting on a picnic bench watching his grandchildren play on the beach. He stressed that he thinks the beach is a good place for children to go to enjoy the summer.
"It's just for the kids. ... they're having a ball," he said. Both Whorley and Dolores Simmons, 64, of McDonald, added that they feel state park officials have done a good job maintaining the beach.
Simmons called the beach, "the best thing [state park officials] ever did."
"They need more of this around here," she said.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources took control of the beach, as well as the rest of the park, from Youngstown in the late 1980s.
Ida Mae Johns, 73, said that when she first moved to Glenwood Avenue in Craig Beach in 1951, people were living in cabins on the sand.
"The beach has really, really improved," Johns said.
Several village residents said they felt the beach was their community's primary asset.
Debra Gibbs, 44, said she likes that her family can walk from their Afton Avenue home to the beach.
Woodland Avenue resident Mike Theodore, 17, added, "It's nice to have the beach right down the road. [You can] go swimming any time you want."
Kathy Davidson, 49, also of Woodland Avenue, said she also likes swimming and fishing near the beach. She added that she's not the only member of her family who enjoys a dip in the lake.
"Our dog likes the water," she said.
The beach's popularity, however, has not turned the village of Craig Beach into a mecca for noisy teen parties. Tina Mahle, 30, of Glenwood Avenue, described the community as quiet.
"It's not Youngstown," she said.