Complaint: Parks board doesn’t represent everyone
By Peter H. Milliken
The president of an association of township officials complained publicly that the residents of southern and western Mahoning County are being taxed for the Mill Creek MetroParks system, but they aren’t being represented on the park district’s board of trustees.
“It’s a countywide park. It’s a metropark. If you want to be a true metropark, then let’s include everybody,” said Ted Lyda, a Beaver Township trustee and president of the Mahoning County Township Association.
The association represents the township trustees and fiscal officers of Mahoning County.
Lyda voiced his protest at Thursday’s county commissioners’ meeting.
Noting that the park board expanded at the beginning of 2010 from three to five members, Lyda said there should be representation on the board from outlying areas.
All county property owners pay taxes through a countywide real-estate levy that is dedicated to the park district, which became a countywide park system in 1989 and now includes more than 4,400 acres. The park’s annual budget is $13 million.
A 1.75-mill, 15-year park- district levy passed in November 2001 and expires at the end of 2016. The levy generates about $6.3 million annually.
“I’m very disappointed in Judge [Mark] Belinky,” who is the sole appointing authority for park-board members, Lyda said.
In recent weeks, Judge Belinky, of the county’s probate court, appointed Valencia Y. Marrow of Youngstown and Atty. Louis J. Schiavoni of Boardman to the park board.
Judge Belinky’s earlier appointments to the park board were Youngstown Prosecutor Jay Macejko of Youngstown, John Ragan of Canfield and Dr. Robert J. Durick of Struthers.
The terms of Ragan and Macejko expire at the end of this year.
“I am committed to diversity, and that is geographic, racial, whatever is necessary to make the park board reflect the face of the community,” Judge Belinky said.
“I just find it odd that I’m being criticized when I’m the first probate judge who’s ever expanded and made the park board as diverse as it is now,” he added.
Judge Belinky noted that, in appointing Marrow, he appointed the first African-American board member in the park’s 120-year history. Struthers never was represented until Dr. Durick was appointed, he noted.
The park board has never had a western or southern Mahoning County resident on it.
Judge Belinky said, however, “There will be somebody from an outlying area eventually as positions open up” on the park board.
“I expanded the park board to make it as diverse as possible,” the judge said, adding that even having five members limits the diversity of representation.
When the park board expanded, only four of 45 applications for park board membership came from southern or western Mahoning County residents, the judge observed.
Facilities operated by the park district are: Mill Creek Park in Youngstown and Boardman, Yellow Creek Park in Struthers, the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve in Coitsville, the MetroParks Bikeway in Canfield and Austintown, the MetroParks Farm and Sawmill Creek Preserve in Canfield, Vickers Nature Preserve and Buckeye Horse Park in Ellsworth, Cranberry Run Headwaters in Boardman, the Mill Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in Beaver Township, and Sebring Woods.