MetroParks board tries to ease fracking fears
By Elise Franco
Rumors about potential fracking for oil and gas in Mill Creek MetroParks took board members by surprise and had residents looking for an explanation.
Nearly two dozen residents and park patrons attended Tuesday night’s MetroParks board of commissioners’ meeting to discuss what they said is a controversial and unsafe process.
Jay Macejko, a park board member and Youngstown city prosecutor, said he doesn’t know how the rumor originated, but the board was prepared Tuesday to ease residents’ worries that a decision about fracking already had been made.
Macejko read a statement before opening the meeting to public comment, saying the board understands the concerns residents have with the prospect of drilling in the park.
He said though there is no fracking, several companies currently have wells on MetroParks land that date back 20 years.
“We are currently researching the contracts we have with those companies, trying to understand exactly how they are structured,” he said. “We need to become more familiar with what previous boards have contracted for and the history of the wells that are already here.”
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process where water and chemicals are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.
The chemicals used in the process are believed by critics to cause water contamination and air-quality issues, and the process has been linked by the U.S. Geological Survey to seismic activity in the U.S., Japan and Canada..
In Ohio and Pennsyl- vania, companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. have begun drilling for natural oil and gas in the Marcellus and Utica shales.
Macejko said the board is in touch with other Ohio park systems struggling with the same drilling situation.
He asked that residents and board members remember the MetroParks’ mission, which includes being environmentally sound, adaptable and economically responsible.
“We are committed to upholding our mission, in words and in action,” he said.
Tim Raridon of Youngs-town was among about a dozen people who spoke to the board against fracking in the MetroParks.
“There’s an emotion out there, and it’s called greed,” he said. “We need to examine the science on both sides, and take great attention to that science and not just the greed.”
Raridon said he thinks residents will hold the board accountable for any incidents that stem from fracking, should it happen in the park.
“If the park board doesn’t do everything possible to prevent fracking here, when something goes wrong everyone will know who to come to for responsibility,” he said.
Chris Khumprakob of Youngstown said she moved from a home in Boardman in the 1990s because a previous board allowed drilling near her park-bordering backyard without discussion from community members.
Khumprakob, who lives in a home in Youngstown that borders the park, said she hopes this board won’t do the same.
“This is our park, paid for by the taxpayers, so we should have a say in what goes on here,” she said. “I ask the board to be open with the public and consider our views. ... Drilling will bring more money, but at what cost?”
Macejko said he’s glad so many folks expressed their views with the board and assured them this wouldn’t be the last public conversation about fracking.
“This process will be very important because we know there are many viewpoints on this issue and that it has the potential to affect so many,” he said. “As stewards of the legacy of Volney Rogers, we support his vision of ‘pure air, bright sunshine and grateful shade for daily rest and recreation open to all.’”