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Upgrades blossom in Mill Creek: Education center, roads among top MetroParks projects

Welder Les Lucas of Norton, Ohio, working for JLR Steel Services, Inc. of Akron, welds structural steel as construction continues on the Learning Center at Fellows Riverside Gardens...by R. Michael Semple

YOUNGSTOWN — Construction of a new outdoor education center near Fellows Riverside Gardens and repairs to a section of East Newport Drive near the boat launch are among the Mill Creek MetroParks construction projects taking place this summer.

The education center will be “the focal point of the Children’s Garden,” which will provide a space for children to garden and participate in interactive activities, said Justin Rogers, planning and operations director for the MetroParks.

Programs will be held year-round at the building, located at the south end of the parking lot at the gardens. A target date for completing the new building and starting programs is October.

Two of the sides of the building will have retractable glass doors to provide a “pavilion” feel during nice weather. The doors can be closed in colder or wet conditions.

It also will be a “support area” for special events such as the Pumpkin Walk in October or Christmas lights events, Rogers said.

Outdoor site work for the Children’s Garden, which will be around the building, will take place next year. Work began on the $400,000 project about two months ago.

A maintenance building on the site is being removed to make way for the new building.

Meanwhile, on the east side of Lake Newport on East Newport Drive just south of the boat launch, workers have been constructing a retaining wall to address the “slide” of soil that damaged the roadway and caused the MetroParks to close part of the road to the public.

When the retaining wall is complete, then repairs to the road will be made.

A consulting firm did some testing and determined that there was a “slip plane” “that caused this area to shift and slump,” Rogers said.

Consultants developed a couple of solutions and MetroParks officials in January placed the work on the list of 2021 projects. The cost for that project also will be $400,000.

“The wall will be constructed between the road and the lake to stabilize that area. What they are doing is installing vertical steel piles into bedrock and then building the wall up from that to prevent any future slide,” Rogers said.

The steel I-beam piles are spaced eight feet apart with vertical pieces of concrete between them.

Park officials started to notice movement of the soil and asphalt in March 2020 and the issue progressed rapidly, resulting in that part of the road being barricaded in March or April.

“What were cracks became significant fissures and became unsafe,” Rogers said.

Work on the retaining wall began several weeks ago. A few of the piles have been installed so far. Completion of the project is estimated to be in about six weeks.

In another area of the park on East Glacier Drive not far from Fellows Riverside Gardens, officials have noticed some minor soil movement — called sloping — but it is off of the edge of the road and has not required any changes to traffic patterns.

“There’s no cracks in the pavement or anything like that, but we are keeping an eye on it,” he said.

Another project Rogers has worked on this year is the former warming house at the Wick Recreation Area on McCollum Road. It is near the wet and dry playgrounds and tennis courts. The warming house was a maintenance building for a couple of decades.

The MetroParks went out to bid in the spring to have the warming house converted into a banquet facility and rental space with retail space for apparel for tennis, golf and sand volleyball and Dek hockey. It also will have upgraded restrooms.

But the bids came in too high, and the project is expected to be re-bid in October.

The projects this year are similar to most years with projects picked from various categories, such as a road improvement, a bridge, parking lot, trails, recreational facilities.

“We like to have some improvement spread out throughout the MetroParks,” Rogers said.

erunyan@vindy.com

2021 CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS

Mill Creek Metroparks has about $2.9 million in capital improvements planned this year. They include:

• Wick Warming House renovations, $800,000

• Wick Recreation Area Warming House renovations project management, $50,000

• Outdoor Education Center construction, $400,000

• Ford Nature Center exhibit construction, $360,000

• Fellows Riverside Gardens Davis Center repairs, $75,000

• Fellows Riverside Gardens Rose Garden improvements, $35,000

• Lanterman’s Mill site improvements, $10,000

• MetroParks Farm improvements, $14,500

• Golf course improvements, $7,000

• Fuel station upgrades, $135,000

• Annual road improvement design, $35,000

• Annual road improvements, $625,000

• Annual parking lot improvements, $200,000

• Annual trail improvements, $125,000

• Annual signage improvements, $25,000

• Annual pavilion improvements, $25,000

• Mill Creek Wildlife Sanctuary improvements $20,000

• Millcreek Preserve improvements, $20,000

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