MetroParks officials react to bike trail concerns
By Justin Dennis
Mill Creek MetroParks officials say they feel those denouncing the MetroParks for using the courts to acquire private property to complete a bicycle trail make up only a small, albeit vocal, minority in the community.
One attendee of a Monday board of commissioners meeting asked why park-goers who may have complained about the Great Ohio Lake to River Greenway’s first two construction phases – but now enjoy it – haven’t approached the media in support of the trail.
“Unfortunately, when you’re enjoying something and you don’t have any complaints, you don’t come forward,” commissioner Germaine Bennett said. “Unfortunately, that’s the way things are set up. [The media is] looking for something more salacious to report on.”
Steve Avery, MetroParks planning director, on Monday presented commissioners a summary of the trail’s history, funding and progress. He said though officials are now hearing concerns about increased crime or loss of privacy due to the trail, they’re much the same worries that arose during the project’s earlier phases and “they’ve fallen away, because they’re not really a reality. ... The majority of the people are there for [recreation].”
Lee Frey, park board president, said: “Sometimes, people that scream and yell and call up [the media] and have a nice presentation ready, act distraught – they get airtime. And that’s too bad.”
Avery said the final designs for the third phase of Mahoning County’s portion of the five-county trail are expected to be finished next month.
In other business, commissioners approved a rule change permitting fishing in all MetroParks creeks, streams, lakes and ponds, unless otherwise specified.
Under the previous rule, fishing was permitted only in waters south of Lake Newport Dam and south of Lake Glacier Dam to the Lake Cohasset Dam, as well as Yellow Creek and other specially permitted areas.
“It’s really just an attempt to allow people to maximize potential fishing opportunities in the MetroParks,” Aaron Young, executive director, told commissioners.
He said parks officials also are considering regularly stocking park waters with fish while encouraging fishers to release their catches.
Fishing in the MetroParks will still only be permitted from March 1 to Nov. 30 under the new rule.
Commissioners also renewed Kravitz Delicatessen’s lease for the MetroParks’ Garden Cafe for another year. Though Kravitz’s initial lease was set for three years – and it’s set to expire at the end of the year – the new agreement must be renewed annually.
The cafe’s sales in 2018 were twice as much as the previous vendor, Young added.
Finally, commissioners approved pay increases for three MetroParks employees, to account for new duties they’ll absorb as a result of 30-year office manager Mandy Walker’s retirement last month.
Secretary Cindy Ellis will make an additional $2,500 a year; HR Director Megan Millich will make an additional $3,150 a year; and accountant James Ridge will make an additional $2,500 a year, Young said.
The MetroParks is saving about $22,000 a year by not replacing Walker’s job, of which about $16,000 will be spent on Walker’s benefits, Young said.