Mill Creek MetroParks Offers Alternative Activities During COVID-19

By Douglas M. Campbell

10 minutes away, Mill Creek MetroParks offers visitors a variety of outdoor activities, and preserves historical sites, such as Lanterman’s Mill. Photo by Kamron Myers/The Jambar

As summer transitions to fall, some Youngstown State University students still struggle to find activities amidst the coronavirus pandemic. However, socially distanced activities are in plain sight, just 10 minutes away from campus. 

Lynn Zocolo, an educator at Mill Creek MetroParks, believes the park has a lot to offer students to decompress from everyday stress.

“I think it becomes a way to connect with nature and to get our visitors introduced to the plant collections, agriculture education and a piece of history,” Zocolo said. 

Mill Creek MetroParks, established in 1891 by Youngstown-based lawyer Volney Rogers, offers visitors access to 4,500 acres of nature, activities and Youngstown history, such as Lanterman’s Mill. 

“The mill has become an iconic treasure in the park and valley. It is the third mill on that site,” Zocolo said. 

The first mill was built and operated from 1789 to 1823. It was replaced in 1825 by a mill with a better frame structure. But less than 20 years later, in 1843, a flood destroyed the second mill. The third mill was built in 1845. 

“German Lanterman and Samuel Kimberly replaced the mill but built it up higher to avoid the floodplain, as well as build the foundation into the bedrock,” she said.

The Ward and Florence Beecher Foundations helped restore the mill in 1982. It is still used today to grind buckwheat, wheat and corn for the community. 

Additional areas of the park include: 

  • Fellows Riverside Garden
  • James L. Wick, Jr. Recreation Area 
  • Trails
  • Bikeways 
  • Lakes, ponds and more

Mill Creek MetroParks typically hosts a variety of events within the park. However, these events were canceled due to COVID-19. 

Chris Bundy, a recreation manager in the James L. Wick, Jr. Recreation Area, believes students can still make the most of the recreation activities that are currently open. These include two golf courses, a batting cage, tennis, pickleball and sand volleyball courts, as well as baseball and soccer fields. 

The MetroParks Farm recently added a disk golf course in Canfield to the recreation area. 

“I would say stop into the Wick Recreation area, we have a lot to offer up here,” Bundy said. 

Mill Creek took extensive precautions to ensure these activities follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. 

“If you were to rent one of our golf clubs or baseball helmets or bats, we sanitize them after every use,” he said.

In their free time, some YSU students took advantage of what the park offers.

Derek Gustovich, a master student in the athletic training program, goes to Mill Creek MetroParks four to five times a week. He tries to relax at the park by only packing light hiking gear, and he explores trails daily for a couple of hours. 

“I like nature a lot, so I take the trails and go hiking. Since everything is closed, it’s a place you can go out and do something. I would do a hike and if I’m not pressed for time I would stop by the Lily Pond to relax,” Gustovich said. 

Chaste Chapman, a first-year graduate student in the student affairs counseling program, goes two to three times a week. During quarantine, Chapman picked up photography as a hobby while walking alongside Lanterman’s Mill. 

“I was out with my sister, and I told her I never went to the park; she has many times. So I figured, why not go? All of the skills that I didn’t have, I decided to work on, and am still working on,” Chapman said.

Zocolo looks forward to the park fully reopening after COVID-19. 

“Hopefully, 2021will bring new park adventures for all of us, and we can get all of our facilities back open and running,” Zocolo said. 

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