By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Doug Lamplugh is known throughout the Drug Enforcement Administration as the agent who seized dirt.
He wears the label with pride, sort of.
"We stopped calling it dirt and started calling it soil," Lamplugh said with a grin. "Now we're calling it grow mix."
The dirtlike product, 640 bags worth $6,400, had its first home inside a downtown marijuana factory at 814 Marshall St.
The bags were seized along with 3,815 marijuana plants in various stages of growth -- reportedly the second-largest haul of pot for the DEA. The investigation, which continues, has resulted in six guilty pleas so far.
The marijuana, grow lights and grower's mix were seized Feb. 25, 2004. Since then, the bags have been in storage, waiting to be put to a good -- and legal -- use.
On Friday, Gobel's Towing donated a flatbed trailer to haul pallets of the shrink-wrapped bags to Fellows Riverside Gardens inside Mill Creek MetroParks. The bags were then brought to an enclosed yard for Keith Kaiser, horticultural director for the parks.
Kaiser said the fertile grower's mix ("dirt is what you sweep off the floor") will be used in the parks' flower beds. Some will be used in small pots for seedlings.
He said he was very appreciative of the donation.
"This is a fertile story," Boardman Police Chief Jeff Patterson said as he watched the bags being unloaded. "From planted pot to potted plants."
The dirt tale, he said, has everything, including alliteration.
Because items forfeited to the DEA must be distributed to police who participate in drug investigations, Patterson accepted the bags of dirt on behalf of his department and then donated them to Mill Creek MetroParks. Boardman police worked the marijuana case.
Lamplugh said agents doing surveillance of the Marshall Street warehouse saw the grower's mix bags being delivered. After seizure, he started thinking of how it could be best used for the community.
"Not many police departments had a need for dirt," Lamplugh said. "That's when we came up with the idea to pass it through Boardman and on to the park."