By PETER H. MILLIKEN
FROM ITS 36-HOLE GOLF COURSE TO its 12-acre Fellows Riverside Gardens, Mill Creek Park is getting an end-to-end makeover.
The work is occurring under the administration of Dennis Miller, Mill Creek MetroParks executive director since last September, who was formerly the park’s golf pro and golf director.
“Our goal is to provide recreational activities of regional significance,” Miller said.
Park users won’t experience any increases in park activity fees this year, said Linda Kostka, development and marketing director.
The golf course is getting a major improvement through installation of a golf-training area, which will open within the next month. “The practice range and learning center will open up shortly” in front of the clubhouse, Miller said, adding that the project will cost nearly $300,000.
The Newport Wetlands parking lot likely will reopen in late July after a two-month closing for a $125,000 reconstruction and drainage improvement by Foust Construction Inc. of Girard that will make it more environmentally friendly, said Steve Avery, park planning director and landscape architect.
Permeable brick pavers and a biofiltration garden will be installed to help reduce the rate and amount of surface rainwater runoff into the lake, absorb more water into the ground, and thereby reduce soil erosion and lake sedimentation and improve water quality, Avery added.
The project is being funded in part by $55,354 in federal money passing through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The remainder is coming from park funds and the seeding, mulching and planting labor provided by park staff.
“The Newport Wetlands parking lot actually was our worst pavement condition parking lot in the park,” Avery
said. The intent of the reconstruction is “to have best management practices with stormwater,” he added.
Although the parking lot is closed, the Albert E. Davies Wetland Trail and Smythe Island are still accessible by hiking in from elsewhere and by canoe or kayak.
Playground improvements are ongoing at the James L. Wick Jr. Recreation Area, with new climbing equipment for older children in an adventure playground having been installed this year. The play-area improvements are funded by a $400,000 bequest from Juliana Kurinka.
Other notable improvements are being made to the park’s 15-mile network of hiking trails, where some trail sections are being relocated for erosion control and safety reasons, and crushed stone bases and wood chips are being added in wet and muddy areas.
The park’s forestry crews provide a bountiful free supply of wood chips from tree cuttings for trail maintenance, said Charles Reed, trail supervisor. “They’re basically a temporary fix,” Reed said of the biodegradable wood chips. Crushed stone is a more “permanent fix,” he added.
The park has $20,000 set aside for trail improvements this year, and the work is being done by park staff, Miller said.
Respondents to a survey in conjunction with the park’s strategic planning process overwhelmingly requested more hiking and bicycling trail-use opportunities, Miller noted.
“Over time, they’ve been eroded by rain and people walking on them,” Perry Toth, operations director, said of the hiking trails.
A stone base has been added at the walking trail that circles the Lily Pond. “It’s probably one of our most-visited places in the park,” Miller said of the 4-acre pond. Created in 1896, just five years after the founding of the park, that pond is the park’s oldest artificial body of water.
The Ohio Woodland Gardens Trail on the east side of Fellows Riverside Gardens is newly paved and handicapped accessible and features a marble bench in memory of Ginny Elser, the late assistant park recreation director.
A new, more prominent sign now marks the entrance to West Golf Drive at U.S. Route 224.
This summer, a new roof will be installed at the Ford Nature Education Center; Morley Pavilion will be stained; and improvements will be made to Pioneer Pavilion, Miller said. Details of the park are being spruced up, including painting of comfort stations.
“We’re just trying to raise awareness of who we are and what we do,” Miller said of the new sign and other aspects of park promotion.
The park also is cutting costs by eliminating weekday pedal boat and kayak rental hours at Lake Newport, where Miller said last year’s gross boat rental income was only $2,818, compared to $10,821 at Lake Glacier.
The Lake Newport boat- rental facility will be open weekends and holidays only this summer, but Lake Glacier’s boat rental schedule will continue on its schedule of Tuesdays through Sundays, plus holidays.
Miller said the boat-rental facility at Lake Glacier does considerably more business than the one at Lake Newport because the Glacier rental pavilion is highly visible from Price Road and West Glacier Drive, whereas the Newport facility is not clearly visible from West Newport Drive.
He said he intends to promote pedal-boat rentals by including them beginning this month as part of a package for those who pay fees to use the batting cage and Par Three Golf Course at the Wick Recreation Area. He also said he plans to rehabilitate and rent out for private parties a recreation room at the Lake Glacier Boathouse.
The park continues its multifaceted strategy to address the wildlife-management challenge presented by an excess population and concentration of geese in certain areas of the park by addling the eggs of Canada geese, displaying signs discouraging people from feeding geese, and using early morning sirens and a coyote decoy to disperse geese at the golf course, Miller said.
In previous years, a dog was used to disperse geese at the golf course, he added.
For the third year in a row, park staff have addled [made non-viable] goose eggs under a permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, with 163 of the eggs having been addled this year, Avery said.
If the eggs are broken apart, the geese will lay new ones; but, if the eggs are addled and returned to the nest, the geese will continue to incubate them, but they won’t hatch, Avery explained.