Mill Creek improvements solidify park’s rich legacy

With the warmth of April right around the corner, the thoughts and actions of many will turn to the great outdoors. In the Mahoning Valley, that great outdoors often translates into three splendid words: Mill Creek MetroParks.

Now that the majestic countywide park system has gotten out of the woods of heated public controversy and bitter divisiveness that clouded the public image of Mill Creek in recent years, fewer distractions stand in the way of doing all possible to improve the natural gem that helps define our community.

By most accounts, the public’s trust in the management of Mill Creek Park has been restored. That trust had been strained in recent years by controversies over mass geese killings, impurities in Lake Newport and accountability and transparency of the district’s leadership.

New policies, new board members and more public-responsive governance in overseeing the district mean the focus of the park can now hone in on what arguably must be its paramount priority: protecting and preserving the esteemed legacy of Volney Rogers who founded the park system 127 years ago.

Judging by the impressive plans recently unveiled for capital improvements for this spring and summer, MetroParks officials are taking that mission to heart.

As Mill Creek Executive Director Aaron Young put it in a story in Monday’s Vindicator, “We are excited to share our progress on the capital improvements that have been completed to date, as well as those improvements that are scheduled for 2018.

“These improvements are expected to have a significant impact on the recreational experience of all users and demonstrate our commitment to providing the finest in park, recreational and open space facilities.”


Young has put the park district’s money where his mouth is. More than $1.1 million in upgrades and enhancements have been budgeted for myriad park amenities. Among those on the drawing boards or to be worked on this season include:

Replacement of the massive wheel in Lanterman’s Mill.

Major renovations to the Ford Nature Center.

Restoration of the North Course bunker in Mill Creek Golf Course.

About $350,0 00 for road improvements and an additional $150,000 for parking lot upgrades.

Those and other advances not only will enhance the natural appeal of the park system, they also will protect the investment of tens of thousands of Mahoning County taxpayers.

Most Mahoning County residents clearly recognize those assets that comprise the jewel they have in their backyards. The proof is in the decisive vote they cast two years ago for a 15-year park tax levy.

To be sure, new challenges likely will confront the park district in years to come. Ever since founder Rogers first fought with city bureaucrats to stake out the Mill Creek park district in the 19th century, challenge after challenge has been met and overcome.

Over those 127 years, Mill Creek MetroParks has carved out a solid legacy as an enjoyable sanctuary of natural splendor to the hundreds of thousands of people who visit it annually. That is a legacy that this year’s attractive grab bag of capital improvements will go far to preserve and protect.

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