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Mill Creek MetroParks to train arborist from within park workforce

Mill Creek MetroParks

By Jordyn Grzelewski

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Director recommends different approach to maintaining trees

By Jordyn Grzelewski

jgrzelewski@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Mill Creek MetroParks will open up training opportunities to employees who wish to become certified arborists.

The MetroParks board approved that action at a meeting Monday despite some disagreement on the issue.

The board’s standing committee on horticulture had recommended the MetroParks hire a full-time certified arborist. MetroParks Executive Director Aaron Young, however, recommended a different approach to maintaining the park’s trees: Training employees, and continuing the practice of contracting some work out.

“The recommendation to the board is one of cost-effectiveness that we feel is meeting the needs of the MetroParks,” he said.

Young said the MetroParks spends about 10 percent of what a full-time arborist would cost by maintaining trees via current staff and contracted services.

While some horticulture committee members were encouraged by the step the board took, they said they are concerned about expediency, as MetroParks staff advised it could take up to three years for employees to be fully trained.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” committee member Ellen Speicher, said. “There is a little concern there is no deadline stated, and we certainly don’t want to see this training not happening for two, three, four, five years.”

“We need a full-time arborist. We don’t need one in two to three years. We need one now,” Deby Clark, horticulture committee chairwoman, said.

Board member Tom Shipka proposed a 12-month deadline for having a trained arborist in place, but the board rejected that amendment.

The board voted 4-1, with Shipka against, in favor of the motion to train an arborist (or arborists) from within the MetroParks’ workforce.

Board member Tom Frost said the approved motion represents “a good middle-ground solution.”

In other business, the board honored John Ragan, who is leaving the board after serving on it for eight years. His term expires at year’s end, and he did not seek reappointment.

Ragan thanked his wife, park directors and his fellow board members.

The board also approved a one-year lease renewal for Hole 55, the restaurant at Mill Creek Golf Course.

Additionally, the board OK’d moving forward with a project to improve the Idora Bridge, located on East Park Drive.

The MetroParks obtained an Ohio Department of Transportation grant that will cover 80 percent of the project’s estimated $250,000 cost, Steve Avery, MetroParks planning and operations director, said.

The board unanimously approved a motion made by Shipka that will require the MetroParks to develop a comprehensive fundraising plan each year.

The planning process, led by the MetroParks development director, will include input from Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens, an independent organization that raises money for the MetroParks’ gardens, and the Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation.