GREEN TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – Some landowners in Mahoning County’s Green Township are angry that Mill Creek MetroParks wants to add another 6.5 miles to the bikeway — because the park would need their land to do it. They expressed their frustration at a trustees meeting on Tuesday night.
This would be the third phase of the project, extending the hike and bike trail from Western Reserve Road to the Columbiana County line.
Mill Creek MetroParks is now in the process of getting land it doesn’t own yet and these neighbors aren’t having it.
Right off the bat, Green Township trustees addressed the elephant in the room — the total animosity toward the expansion of the Great Ohio Lake to River Trail. It’s a project that would basically cut through all of their property.
“As you may or may not know, they have sued most of us already,” said Diane Less, whose land is on the chopping block.
She was the first to speak, five minutes into the meeting. Less claims the trail would slice off six acres of her family’s 160 — land they’ve had for nearly a hundred years.
“We are just asking you not to undercut us so that we can make our deals before you do,” she said.
Jeff Ickes told the crowd of about 40 people that the proposed bike trail would be “legitimately 47 feet, 9 inches away” from his home.
“Plain eyesight level directly into my bathroom and my daughter’s bedroom. That is appalling to me,” he said.
Ickes said he is also a cyclist, biking upwards of 4,000 miles a year.
“I take cycling very seriously but I take my family’s safety and the safety of my neighbors much more seriously, and I ask that everybody stand and oppose it and do what is morally right before the eyes of God, and that is to not let this land be stolen.”
Tom Hough demanded answers from the trustees as to why they never met with the landowners.
“You yo-yos didn’t do that! You yo-yos didn’t do that at all!”
“You know, I’ve been called a lot worse in my life, so I can handle that, OK?” Trustee George Toy said. “We are here for Green Township, but we have not made any deals with Mill Creek MetroParks at all. Period.”
The trustees told everyone they’re also against the bike trail expansion.
Ickes asked them how Mill Creek Park is being given the authority to do this.
Fiscal Officer Randy Chismar said the state of Ohio gave them that power through eminent domain.
“I guess if they’re taking permanent right-of-way, then I guess I need to keep my language clean, but that’s not a very classy way to do it. I agree with that,” Chismar said.
He told the landowners that since the state has given the park that power, there’s nothing trustees can do.
State Rep. Don Manning was also at the trustees meeting. He told the group he has “never been in support of eminent domain for any reason,” though he said he does realize there are times when it’s necessary. He said in the case of the bike trail expansion, it’s not one of those times.
Manning said he doesn’t know if there’s anything he can do at the state level to stop it but if he can, he will.