Township residents soon may have a Riverside Gardens of their own, as township officials have begun the process of converting part of a chunk of donated property into a community space.
Township Administrator Jason Loree said he envisions the site will be similar to the Mill Creek MetroParks space in Youngstown.
The property, located on Raupp Avenue and obtained from Clarence R. Smith Jr. last year, is set to become the Southern Park Historic District, which will include the Smith property as well as the Southern Park Historic Stables located at 126 Washington Blvd.
“The longer-term goal is to have this space be self-sufficient through rentals,” Loree said of the Smith property, which totals 11.1 acres. He said he envisions the property, which includes Smith’s house and a barn, as being used for events such as weddings and picnics.
Part of the space, which was part of Diamond Steel’s facilities, is being used as a storage facility for the township’s crisis-response vehicles. This part of the property was purchased by the township last year. Smith then donated the rest of his property, including his house and many of his belongings, to the township.
Another feature of the property is a barn that belonged to Henry Stambaugh and was built in 1912. The barn is in excellent condition, Loree said.
“That’s the really unique feature of it — [Smith] did not really do anything to [change] it,” he said.
The planned historic district also will include the Southern Park Stables, which is the only remaining structure from Southern Park and was a private training stable owned by Atty. David Arrel. Southern Park included the Southern Park Trotting Track, a horse-racing facility built by Stambaugh, Arrel and Sen. David Tod. Southern Park spanned 55 acres and was a popular sports and recreation destination for area residents.
“Southern Park was a spacious area with tall trees and open fields. ... It was a favorite spot for family gatherings and reunions, for company picnics and organization-sponsored outings for groups of inner-city children who otherwise would not have an opportunity to experience fresh air and sunshine in an alluring pastoral environment,” wrote Janie Jenkins, a long-time Vindicator feature writer who maintained the stables for decades and who donated the 8 acres of stables property to Boardman Park in 1993 with a lifetime estate clause until her death in 2012.
Boardman Park has partnered with the Mahoning County 4-H organization in renovating the stables.
“Boardman Park is really on board with helping us get these things accomplished,” said Mahoning County 4-H Director Janice Hanna. “We’re certainly working on this together. ... Everything that we do is for the community.”
Park leaders also are working in partnership with township officials to create the historic district.
“For both the park and the township, we’re very fortunate to have the Stambaugh barn and the Southern Park Stables,” said Dan Slagle, Boardman Park executive director. “Part of our mission here at the park is to preserve the history of Boardman.”
A horse ring and a community garden will be added to the stables property, Slagle said. He said Boardman Park leaders are in the process of having plans drawn up by MS Consultants, and after the plans are on paper, they will begin to explore funding options from various foundations.
Part of the historic-district project will be funded by the $250,000 capital grant the township received from the state earlier this year. Loree said the township will pursue other grants when it gets further into the planning process.
Loree said work on the Smith property will begin immediately after the grant funds are released, but that although the funds have been awarded, it could be several months before they are released.
“[This is] a nice piece of history to capture and hang on to for the community,” Loree said. “We want to make this a community asset.”