Mill Creek MetroParks Board of Commissioners formally introduced a new executive director and announced two public hearings to gather information about hydraulic fracturing.
Dennis Miller, a 14-year MetroParks employee, succeeded Clarke Johnson as executive director Sept. 18.
Board president Robert Durick acknowledged receiving a petition from concerned residents who wanted a nationwide search conducted for Johnson’s replacement, but Tuesday night he defended the board’s decision to hire Miller, who was responsible for managing the golf course, Wick Recreation Area and Judge Morley Pavilion before being appointed director.
“I see [Miller] sitting in the executive director chair for many years,” Durick said.
Miller, who is the fourth permanent executive director since 2002, said he will strive to manage all aspects of the park wisely.
“I understand and respect the park’s history and the legacy of Volney Rogers,” he said.
Harry Meshel, a former state senator and park commissioner, praised the decision to hire Miller during public comment. Meshel was on the board when Miller was hired as a golf pro.
“I understand about national searches. ... You can search all over the world but often times, you find the jewel right in your back yard,” Meshel said.
In other business, the park board announced dates for public hearings to discuss hydraulic fracturing and leasing mineral rights in the MetroParks.
The first public hearing will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Davis Center at Fellows Riverside Gardens. During the first hour, the board will hear from Rhonda Reda, executive director of Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.
The second hearing will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 25 at the MetroParks Farm in Canfield. The board said each resident will receive two minutes, but also could pool their time and address the board as a group.
Durick said the hearings are for factfinding purposes and said no decision nor direct debate will occur.
Youngstown resident Lynn Anderson and others questioned the board about Reda, saying OOGEEP is not an unbiased organization and promotes natural gas and oil exploration in Ohio.
“OOGEEP is funded exclusively by Ohio’s crude oil and natural gas producers and royalty owners through a voluntary assessment on the production of all crude oil and natural gas produced in Ohio,” according to the organization’s website.
The board was expected to discuss the 10-year strategic park plan Tuesday, but because of scheduling conflicts between the board and PROS Consulting, LLC, a full-service management consulting and planning firm hired to help with the plan, the discussion was postponed.
Durick said the board should approve a final version at its December meeting.