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Superintendents support restoration of McGuffey Preserve

Campbell, Lowellville officials submit letters to Mill Creek MetroParks

YOUNGSTOWN — The Campbell City Schools and Lowellville Local Schools are weighing in on the controversy over the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve in Coitsville Township.

The issue is whether the Mill Creek MetroParks should allow the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to take over or become involved in operating the wildlife preserve.

Matthew Bowen, Campbell Schools superintendent, wrote a March 6 letter on school district letterhead stating that the school district supports “the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve being restored in its entirety for the taxpayers of Coitsville Township, Campbell and Youngstown’s East Side.”

The letter, addressed “To whom it may concern,” states that the Campbell City Schools “and its regional partners have attracted children and families with new and ongoing development related to education, health care and workforce. Parks and recreation are important to a comprehensive plan to attract and retain families in our area.

“Therefore the District further supports the restoration of the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve, which may create tourism and promote economic development in a low to moderate income area of Mahoning County.”

A letter dated March 12 from Lowellville Local Schools was addressed to Lee Frey, president of the Mill Creek MetroParks and was signed by Christine Sawicki, Lowellville schools superintendent. It is on school district letterhead.

“On behalf of the students, families and staff of the Lowellville Local School District, I ask the park district to kindly take action on the following items:

“Restore, maintain and preserve the McGuffey Family Pond and Dock” and “Transfer the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve ownership to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as a state nature preserve or jointly manage the preserve between the park district and ODNR, as a state nature preserve.”

It adds, “By taking action, it will provide individuals in the Valley with the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful, historical landmark.” And it states that “The McGuffey Wildlife Preserve is a National Historic Landmark. I urge you to do the above to protect this priceless heritage.”

Meanwhile, the Coitsville Township trustees passed a resolution last May supporting the MetroParks in its operation of the preserve.

Richard Scarsella, chairman of the board of directors of the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society, and other members of the society have spoken repeatedly to the Mahoning County commissioners in recent months to urge the MetroParks to take steps to preserve and improve facilities at the preserve such as the pond, or allow ODNR to take over or co-manage the preserve.

The commissioners approved a resolution in February that Scarsella helped to write that supported ODNR operating or co-operating the preserve, a 73-acre property that the historical society turned over to the MetroParks in 1998.

ODNR has found that the MetroParks is not interested in turning it over to the state.

Since then, letters have been submitted in support of the MetroParks restoring and maintaining the “historic McGuffey Pond” from State Sen. Michael Rulli of Salem, David Tod II and Sallie Tod Dutton, trustees of The Tod Foundation of Youngstown.

Frey and Aaron Young, MetroParks executive director, have steadfastly rejected the efforts of the historical society to get the MetroParks to turn over the property to the state or to maintain the pond.

Frey said recently the MetroParks is not going to give the preserve to ODNR because the MetroParks is maintaining the property just as promised in the 1998 agreement with the historical society — to make it a nature preserve.

Frey said ODNR has already said it will not maintain the pond if it takes control of the preserve and will do essentially the same thing with the preserve the MetroParks has done.

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